A Primer: What is Magick?

Welcome to the second book of Realms of Myth: The Grimoire. The Grimoire was created to gather all the trades, rules and guidelines needed to use magick as a tool in the game into one handy reference, both for the players’ PC’s and for all the NPC’s populating the GM’s game world. This book is not meant to stand alone, and is by no means complete on any topic except magick. It is meant as a companion book to mesh with and work alongside Book I., to provide the additional information needed for creating and maintaining a complete and believable FANTASY roleplaying world where magick is a living breathing part of the landscape.

As the definitive sourcebook on magick, The Grimoire contains all of the background and incidental information on magick to help everyone understand what the full concept is and the intentions are behind the use of the term “magick” and the basic principles by which it is supposed to work in this particular game. It ranges from such topics as sources of magick (high and low mana areas), holy sites and consecrated ground for the Mystics serving the gods, and notes on the various forms that magicks can take, procedures for learning additional magicks, researching and writing new magicks, creating magick items, and so on, and so forth.

Here I have attempted to frame as complete a definition of magick as possible. From there I explore the magickal environment, the forms magick can take, the processes of creating it, and the rules that govern the interplay between magicks, between the characters and the magicks, and between the characters, those who wield magick, the magicks themselves and the game world.

Hopefully any problems that may be encountered concerning the workings of magick are answered within the following pages. All questions concerning magick that could be anticipated have been addressed. The role of the gods and the limits of their influence in the game world also fall within the pages of The Grimoire. The nature of those powers and the rules by which they are bound in interfering in the mortal world without shredding the very fabric of the material cosmos are presented in this book and discussed at some length. The magickal non-material realms, called the Spheres of Spirit, are also touched on specifically as regards the use of magicks of the school of Conjuring, Summoning, & Binding (Naming) and the conditions under which spirits can pass through into the mortal world.

While the number of magickal creatures and beings covered in Book 3: The Bestiary is essentially limited, some care has been taken for the sake of continuity and cohesiveness of system (and continued GM sanity) to use the same terms and restrictions discussed in The Grimoire to define and govern their magickal abilities, in accordance with the descriptions provided in the Compendium. This keeps them in line with those exercised by the PC’s, shows them that everything they see about them in the game world they, too, can eventually achieve, and makes them easier for the GM to employ in play.

 

What is Magick?

Where does it come from?

What do we mean when we say “magick” here in Realms of Myth?

In the worlds created and run under the ægis of RoM, magick is the ultimate evidence of things unseen, of not just the existence of the realm of Spirit, but of its importance.

By its very nature, magick is the ephemeral stuff of which fantasies are built.

Because much about it has been handed down to us in folktales and legend, and even the odd surviving manuscript, we felt there are certain obligations involved in describing its abilities and capabilities for the purposes of roleplaying, at least in regards to our Realms of Myth. Its highly spiritual and esoteric nature makes it an incredibly rich topic for speculation in a fantasy game, however, full of promise and mystery, open to all sorts of interpretations. Accompanied by such a rich legacy, there are also certain traditions those of us who would render a facsimile of the medieval era for the purposes of roleplaying to which we must be true in describing magick so that at least an impression of what it was like to the medieval mind can be conveyed. We have striven here to embody the essence of magick, its wondrous spirit, while using a frame of philosophical principles and spiritual laws, ancient and modern (up to l. 1800’s), as a reference point for guidelines in drawing up the rules by which it functions, which aided in its overall organization, as well.

Magick in RoM is best described as being spun or woven of the intangible and invisible power or energy known as “mana“. Mana is a raw, wild energy, the stuff of dreams, of spirits and the Spirit Sphere to which they belong. Mana is that intangible power and energy, invisible to most, that at once is both produced by and at the same time encompassing and even governing the very fabric of the Mortal World and the forces of Nature. Mana is everywhere, permeating everything both animate and inanimate, and affects all facets of life and the world. It is taken by many to be a manifestation of Dame Fortune, Lady Luck, or simple Fate in the lives of mundane folk, though the practitioners of the magickal arts know through the laws that describe the behavior of mana and magick that “luck” is made, and is only as fickle as one’s will and concentration. It permeates the Mortal Coil, Material World or Mortal Sphere (as it is variously known) and all other co-existing realms of existence, through every Sphere of Spirit from the highest Sphere of Light to the lowest Sphere of Darkness.

Mana is viewed as the embodiment of and ultimate cause behind all the elemental forces known to mortal folk, and those that yet remain unknown which, when viewed altogether, produce and maintain the right Order of the Universe. Mana and magick form the common bond that unites the universe on the most basic and primal level.

The connection between things, even those apparently unrelated, is mana.

The process of tapping and manipulating that power is called magick, for the purposes of Realms of Myth.

Mana is a wild force, as indeed are all the powers of Life and Nature. Even to practitioners who wield its power regularly, it is much like a wild beast that has become accustomed to the presence of mortals, on the whole. While even these folk of subtle knowledge may come to know many of the ways of mana and magick, they can never predict the way it will react when approached through their arts except in a general way. Working magick can, provoke the beast of mana to its wildest violence or make that beast purr. Magick is no science to be so easily commanded to serve whim or even need. In many ways it is pure Art.

While mana is everywhere, in every thing, it moves about as one would expect of a substance like fog or water in slow motion, or a wild animal, stalking and flowing through and about the worlds of RoM in unpredictable, ever-changing currents, eddies and tides, always leaving in its wake a low, general background blanket of power.

The movement of mana creates steady, slowly wandering streams or fluctuating pools of power called high mana areas, and also more barren areas called low mana areas, which may be revealed through the practitioner’s native ability to Sense Magick or any form of the “Reveal Magick” dweomer of the art of Divination. Drawing mana to perform magicks in a high mana area is easier and less exhausting, while in low mana areas it is harder, likely to take longer, and is more taxing to the caster. The locations of these areas are subject to slow or sometimes even sudden change (GM’s discretion), but the universities, schools and homes of magickers are invariably located in high mana areas, and have been known to move right along with the shifting pools and streams. However, the player must understand that, no matter how low the tide of power in a given area, mana can always be reached, for mana is everywhere and in everything unless actively driven out.

The power drawn for magick, the mana that is both magick’s substance and function, is drawn from the Spirit Spheres, the non-material realms that coexist with the material.

For the purposes of magick, the closest of the Spirit Spheres to the mortal world is the “Ætheric Sphere”, or the “Ætherium”. Both are correct. This is not a physical proximity, not one that can be measured as one counts the miles on a mortal journey, but a difference in vibration. The Ætherium largely coexists with the Material, each blending or bleeding subtly one into the other, so does the stuff of that realm permeate and bleed into the worlds of the Mortal Sphere, the denizens of the Ætherium passing between just as easily, like ghosts or the Fey or any of the other spirits of that realm.

The raw stuff of the Ætherium is called the “æther” or “ether” by practitioners in general. This is a wispy, almost fog-like substance, even forming tendrils like cobwebs, generally tending towards a silvery-blue color, slightly luminescent when viewed in dim lighting, and can be seen on occasion when a very strong manifestation even by those with no magickal talent or Spirit Sight. This color may change with the prevailing vibration of the setting through the entire spectrum, and where it impinges on living things tends to pick up and show the emanations of their spirit-energy, their “auras” (pl., sing. “aura”).

Separating the mortal world from all the Spirit Spheres, including the Ætherium is a barrier of energy or vibration simply called The Veil. This is normally invisible, though when it is stressed or tested it may become visible even to the eyes of those untrained in the magickal arts and those with no magickal talent whatsoever.

This may seem to contradict the closeness of the Mortal Sphere with the Ætherium, but it only manifests to magickers when they try to peer into the Spirit Spheres with their specially developed Othersenses (Spirit Skills), obscuring their perceptions somewhat, but most palpably when they actually reach out to touch it and draw on the mana of Spirit to use it to breach it in the use of Spirit Magicks. Generally speaking, the harder one tries to pierce the Veil, for whatever purpose and by whatever agency, regardless of the side of the Veil on which they reside, the more strongly the Veil resists. Drawing power for magick is like poking a straw through only to sip a little, not too tough. For any entity to try to push through so to manifest fully and materially cannot generally be done without the denizens on the other side also helping to pull him through.

In the hands of the unskilled, mana and the talent to wield it can manifest in the material world as unpredictable flashes of precognition: or sudden scraps of prophetic vision – or not (GM’s discretion). It can provide the opportunity to develop the more modest Spirit Skills like crystal ball scrying, tarot card reading, or exceptional insights in astrological divination, and/or the ability to Sense Magick, as opposed to true magick-wielding ability. In these folk the talent is natural and naturally developed, or undeveloped, as the case may be. Children with talent are often precocious, wild of nature and mercurial in temper.

The energy called mana has many different “levels” or wavelengths within itself, a wide range of vibrations. Like any other: energy it occurs in many different frequencies, varying with the source the magicker draws on and the use to which it is put.

Though they are magickal in appearance and governed by the same parameters, effects, and descriptions as are the magicks of the Druid trades and of the Witches and Wizards, Mystics actually channel miracles directly from On High, transcending the Mortal Sphere and its base influences. They are the appointed agents carrying the Light in the world for all to see. That of other magickal trades is not only touched by but impressed with the baser mortal vibration, losing its purity as it is worked. Through the Mystics, the Virtues esteemed by the Light are manifested in the mortal world. Ease and solace are dispensed to the needy, channeled through the Mystics according to their needs, and sometimes used as instruments of the Light as channels to manifest Their will, as the Light Itself sees the need.

To be in the vicinity of a Mystic as he Ascends and then channels a miracle is an experience of a lifetime for those of the faithful present to witness it, to stand in the reflected glow of Eternal Glory. To achieve Grace and receive the power of a miracle is to be cradled in the infinitely tender hand of the Light, a tearfully heart-touching confirmation of faith beyond all possible description. Miracles dispensed at the hands of Mystics are the epitome of the medieval religious ideal, what the people live their lives for with no expectation of fulfillment, they are the substance of things hoped for, but hope beyond hope to have revealed to them, the evidence of things unseen. The hearts Mystics can fill in the medieval milieu of the game is one of the reasons for the fact that roughly 1 in 50 of the overall population are members of the clergy, either laymen or sworn in orders.

The mana usually tapped in the workings of Wizardry is the most refined and specific in vibration, the opposite end of the spectrum from the miracles of Mystics. While mana is a wild and unpredictable force in general, the mana used by the Wizards is closest in vibration to the material world in which they live. Closer to their objective of working their will in the material world, that used by Wizards is the most malleable to their ends. That is the level of the common bond of mana used by Wizards, but it is further divided between the Wizards themselves, with those who use their arts for the highest purposes at the top and that used for the most base and selfish reasons at the bottom. Intent alone, not specific magickal effect employed, determines the part of the vibratory spectrum, high or low, from which the power used to create it is drawn – unless the mana is drawn from a mortal source, which can make all the difference. Not all such mana is considered “clean”. Some can taint the very spirit and soul of the wielder.

The vibration of the mana shared by Witches and the Druid trades, and the lesser folk of that ilk, lies somewhere in-between that tapped by Mystics and that used by Wizards. Witches and the Druids, Fathi, Fili and Bards, Smiths and the Fiana, and the Hearth Witches and Cunning Folk that follow their ways, all deal with the power of Nature and the elements, earth, wind, water, and fire, although that used by Fili and Bards is expressed in a different fashion. These have the building blocks of the universe, the power of the turning of seasons and the passing of years, the very tides of life and death, at their fingertips. It is the mana of life shared by all living things universally: plants, animals, other sentient beings, all forms of life no matter how great or small.

Through their covenant with the great spirits of Nature and many localized gods of beast, river, field and mountain, the Witches draw a somewhat higher vibration of mana than their ancient sponsors that follow the Druid trades, too proud to ever bend their knee in that way. They wield living mana primordial and pure, directly from the living world about them, untainted by the cares and concerns and weakness of character to which the races of man are prone. Until it touches their hands, their mana is as untouched by the yearnings of the mortal spirit or essence as the miracles channeled by any Mystic.

Despite the fact that the Witches grew out of the Druidic tradition, the Witch traditions come from a much later time when the Olde Ways were being tested by newer religions. Their covenant with Nature reflects a schism between the angry devotees who would strike back in anger against the invading late-comers who so often condemn their ways, and those who embrace all life and seek ways for all to live in peace and harmony with Nature, the Black Covenant and the White Covenant, respectively.

The Druids are simple law keepers, guardians, and suffer no such division between their members. They are keepers of the Law, unswayed by the fires of faith and personal passions. They might be viewed as the Gray between the White and Black orders of the Witches. Though they wield it themselves, the Druids’ and Witches’ power transcends the Mortal Sphere along with most of its base influence, while that of the Wizards both touches and is touched by the mortal vibration, oftentimes being drawn from their own physical bodies or from the mana stored in various material objects, neither remaining the same nor retaining its purity. To be the subject of a Druid or Witch’s magick that is not specifically cast to inflict harm can be stimulating to those who have the native talent to sense it – a very subtle tingling, refreshing and effervescent feeling.

Because of the awesome effect magick can have on play and the impact the PC’s can have on the game world with such a tool in their hands, the wild and unpredictable nature of the forces used in magick, as described, and its special, highly spiritual practices, there are many special conditions, rules and restrictions involved in its use and that of the special abilities and allowances associated with it. Most of these apply to all practitioners of magick in the game (all of those of the Druid ilk, Witches and Wizards), so for the sake of convenience these are all referred to as “Wizards” both specifically and collectively, and also as “practitioners”, “magickers” or “magick-wielders”, although the former is used most commonly. Mystics are not generally included in this term because they stand in a unique position, manifesting magick by channeling it with the aid of their deities directly from Spirit. They do not craft the power manifested by their own hand. Those issues that involve Mystics are addressed as they occur in the flow of text to highlight the differences of their trade in play.

The first part of The Grimoire is dedicated to describing the world as seen through the eyes of those who practice magick. It addresses a few of their special needs and considerations and illuminates something of their view of the world. It also speaks on the topic of magick in general and its role in the game world.