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The Style and Flavor of Thaumaturgy?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Logos&Eidos, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

    I am in need of help.

    I built a magic-system and it seems mechanically sound; at least it gives me less conceptual headaches than its prior iterations. However the system is in dire need of flavor, a sense of tradition, mysticism and otherworldliness , to makes the abilities that it grants more than just magic derived super powers.

    The Jedi,The Aes Sadi and The Techno Mages of Babylon 5.
    Are possible sources but that would still require a whole lot of remixing.

    The Thaumaturgy system.

    Thaumaturgy the Art of the wonders, is a vocation practiced by a rare few, between 1.5 and .05% of the population.

    All Thaumaturgists attained their power by mastering “the surge”, a consequence of opening themselves to the aether and attempting to grasp its power. Those that succeed either through natural ability or a combination of dedicated training, preparation and of course luck, awaken as Thaumaturgist. Gaining the ability weave threads of aether into patterns (thaumaturgical workings) that effect the world.

    The unfortunate potential Thaumaturgist who fail to control the surge’s power have one of three fates.

    1. They experience some pain and mild metaphysical damage which will heal in time.
    2. The ability to control aether is burned out of them.
    3. The surge kills the neophyte perhaps spectacularly with them being consumed from within by pale flame.

    The risk involved with developing thaumaturgical abilities is part of the reason for the scarcity of Thaumaturgists. Few people are willing to gamble with their own lives or the lives of their children in an attempt to gain metaphysical power. All of the preparatory training, magitechnology, psychoactive drugs, the assistance of specially trained Thaumaturgist. Can make the awakening less dangerous and more likely to succeed, but there are no guaranties. Thus most Thaumaturgist are drawn from the ranks of the Naturals, those gifted few who instinctively know how to ride out the surge.

    Thaumaturgy has two disciplines.
    Native (needs a better name) which are Arts accessible to all Thaumaturgist, Portalogy, Vitalism, Plasmics, Weaving and Fraying.

    Elemental Arts which require that a Thaumaturgist possess the a corresponding affinity to an art in order to use it.
    1. Fire(Heat).
    2. Light.
    3. Electricity.
    4. Force. It starts as mostly being kinetic energy which can be tuned to effect different phase of matter. More sophisticated effects can mimic the gravitation, and inertia. Force Arts also contain alchemy, transmuting matter through a fine usage force.
    5. Entropy. I honestly have little idea how to implement this element.

    Thaumaturgist can potentially develop powerful passive abilities as a result of the higher levels of aether flowing through their systems. With training they can tune their bodies to draw sustenance from the aether reducing the need for food and rest, speeding healing and extending the life span, enhancing physical ability.
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver


    To me, 0.5 to 1.5% of the populace is a *lot.* 1 in 200, or a potential mage for every village. Are you sure you want that many mages running around?

    Your descriptions of the various abilities for each type of thaumaturgy are a bit cryptic. 'Portalogy' I am assuming is some sort of teleport skill. 'Vitality' sounds like healing. Plasmics...energy manipulation. Weaving and Fraying...?

    The elemental list is at least not as derivative as the vast majority of elemental magic systems. I would suggest combining fire and light.

    But to provide depth to all this? Simple enough. You have a complex magical system here. Something like this doesn't originate overnight. There would have to be a 'First Elementalist,' for example, and a 'Great Cataloguer' who laid out the basics of how at least the 'native' system works. Toss in an odd reference to the long lost books of the first Entropy Mage, with mention of his or her grisly fate. And be sure to include the story of how early mages banded together to found the first magical academy, as well as the intrigues that led to its destruction.
    arboriad likes this.
  3. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I'm not exactly certain on what the right percentage should be, professional level thaumaturgy requires a level effort equivalent to becoming a professional athlete. However, the estimate on what percentage of the U.S. population are professional athletes .00005% seemed much to small. The percentage estimates on doctors were higher 0.29%, which is probably better Thaumaturgist are common enough that everyone knows that they exist and have great influence on society, but when measured against the mundane masses are still very rare.

    The arts in Native Discipline of Thaumaturgy are as follows...

    Portalogy. Is the art of door ways, metaphorically the name could be taken to mean the art of passage or transit. I based teleportation mechanics on Diablo's, with the added ability to use the aether for storage.

    Vitalism. is the result of combining psychic energy and life-force into one energy Vita. It was originally a separate
    element but I deiced to make it an innate ability.

    Plasmics. Is about converting spiritual power into a pseudo-substance . The name is taken from the meaning of the word plasma.

    Weaving and Fraying. are simply spellcraft and counter magic.

    Fire,Light and Electricity are all just different aspects of Radiance.
    Force is pretty much self explanatory.
    Entropy is problematic. From whence does one tap a force of decay and dissolution?

    What I know about the setting and its back story is.

    The Aurora star system was unified into a single state to face threat from an invading race eldritch-abominations, which included the establishment a single magical order. Some time after the eldritch war, a civil war,sparked by a psychic plague that nigh eliminated peoples impulse control, destroyed the Empire and caused a two thousand year dark age, that the people with in the last few generation have only recovered from.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The backstory you sketch is way outside the ken of the average Joe, even if said Joe is a thaumaturge. So I would bury all that behind myths and rumors and ill-understood artifacts.

    ThinkerX is on the right track, though I would not call it at all simple: your system needs a history. Adding chronological depth is one necessary way--rise and fall, attempts and failures, heroes and villains. You could add breadth as well, in which practice and theory vary from this kingdom to that, with outliers. Yes, that means writing a whole crapload more backstory, but you are investing in that so you can collect the dividend in your actual story. Invest zero and the yield will be zero.
  5. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I've got more back story I only mentioned the bits that were relevant to the discussion of the magic system. Looking at possible sources Diablo's Horadrim are the closest magical order to mine in terms of origin.

    The Jedi and the Aes Sadi have a sense of majesty and mysticism to them and their power. I'm at a loss of for is how to build a similar sense of nigh-religiosity off the mechanics that I have established.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm not sure you do a sense of majesty and mysticism -- or a sense of anything, really -- in backstory. That's accomplished in the story itself. The prose will invoke elements of the backstory, so you still have to do that work. Perhaps this analogy is appropriate: you build props. For you, it's wood and paint and nails. It's only atmosphere for the audience.

    What I'm saying (which is what I ought to have said, since I'm saying it!) is, I'm not sure you can feel those emotions toward your own world. You're remembering Dune and Star Wars as a reader/viewer, an experience denied you in your own work. The best you can do is to do the best you can do, then wait to see if you get the response in your readers you long to evoke.
  7. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    The thing is I can see the world in head as I want others to see it.
    I've built the system, but now I need the set dressing the props that make the system live.
  8. Clearmadness

    Clearmadness Dreamer

    I think your system is sound mechanically, and interesting. The one concern I would have is that its seems like a completely internal psychic type power, with no external or knowledge based aspects. So you don't need to study or learn to us this power, you're just born with the power to fling fire around with your mind.

    Of course, you need to train but that training is all spiritual or mental. This is a type of "magic" that you mostly see in YA novels and even there I find it a overused and weak trope.

    I understand that am probably mischaracterizing your system a bit to make my point, but still you should think about it.
  9. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I prefer magic(under whatever name) to be an internal power.

    Cutting deals with spirits always has "fine print" and even when
    the sprits are benevolent, deals with them still have inconvenient terms and conditions; see Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive for example.

    Getting power from a god is an even worse contract than cutting a deal with a common spirit, and being a Demigod is well hazardous to ones health.

    Having pet monsters and or spirit-beings has it own complication, and does in fact exist in my setting.

    Magic being limited solely to magic-items brings up the question of how are they created? The only real difference between magic-items and internal magic is that items can be taken away far more easily.

    Thaumaturgical workings(spells) is the external knowledge aspect, the patterns must learned.

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