Magic in Errant Story

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Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 26th, 2009, 4:38 am

As requested...

An Overview of Magic in the Errant Universe

Magic in the Errant Universe is not a supernatural force either of the universe or within a mage. Instead it is a discipline, an art form if you will, dedicated to making things happen that would otherwise be disinclined to occur. As such there is no real resource limit, a mage can perform as much magic as they are prepared to perform, and their proficiency in doing so will depend greatly on their natural talent, their depth of knowledge, and how magically "in shape" they are.

For purposes of explanation, consider casting a spell to be like singing a song, but where there is only an outcome if you "sing" within a certain very narrow range of competence (please note that there is no actual singing required for magic, it's just a metaphor here). Even for a simple song where the words and melody aren't complicated, the physical process involved in producing a good enough sound is still hard work, and there's a lot of very complex things going into singing what appears on the surface to be an easy song. Because the process itself is work, you need to have the parts involved be in physical shape to do it, which is why only someone who knows how to sing correctly and does so on a regular basis is going to be up to performing a professional-quality opera or musical or rock concert. Most of us do not have that kind of endurance or range, even if we lucked out enough to produce some decent sound.

Magic is similar, but a great deal less subjective. People who can't sing that well have musical careers all the time, but in magic you really can't fake it. In magic, only someone who really knows how to do it and has a lot of practice with what they're doing is going to be up to performing any amount of sustained magic (meaning magic at an actually useful rate instead of only something once a day or worse). That's why most people tend to specialize even if they've had a general magical education... it's a lot easier to keep in shape for a collection of spells in your comfortable range than it is to practice everything you know often enough to do them all well.

Reliably performing a broad range of magic is where the question of natural talent comes in. Some musical naturals just "get" music, so instead of learning this song or that song as isolated ideas they are instead learning the music as variations on a pattern that they already recognize. Thus, they have an easier time learning new music and will retain it pretty much forever, making it much more likely that they can perform a wide variety of things to an acceptably high standard without nearly so much preparation. Magical naturals work the same way... they just "get" magic in a way that means they can learn a spell or even a wider magical concept quickly and they'll retain it for a long time. Fortunately, in both music and magic talent like this is not all or nothing, it's a spectrum, so while some people are better at it than others, everyone can do it to an extent.

And so, all of this music metaphor aside, magic ability boils down pretty simply. Theoretically anyone can learn some magic with enough hard work and training. However, most people aren't worth training at all because they don't learn fast enough and would have to really struggle to manage even a single spell competently. Even among the faster learners (which is still a fairly large number, really), people generally obtain only a certain degree of broad competence. Those who are really expert at magic are pretty rare (and those who are expert without training are incredibly rare and usually have major blind spots because they're self taught)... and no matter who you are you usually still must practice in order to maintain any reliable degree of competence.

Now, all that said, there's still an awful lot more to cover when it comes to magic and how it works in the ES universe. I could continue to make posts like this one about all the different aspects, but I think it might be more fun to handle this in a more interactive way by just starting a new mage school-oriented RPG thread, "Professor Noriko's Introduction to Magic." That way I could continue to talk about all this different magic stuff as Poe and I work it out, but it'd be in a more entertaining and memorable format. There could be lectures, Q&A, and even "labs," though it would have to be slightly more actively GMed if it's to do the job of figuring out what can or can't happen magically. Would there be interest in a thread like that? It doesn't offer anywhere near the level of adventure, but I think it could still have some entertaining moments.

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 26th, 2009, 10:42 am

That was very interesting, Impy; thanks. As it happens, I am one of those "musical naturals" you talk about, having an innate ability to look at a musical score (as long as it's at least slightly tonal...) and not only perform my part of it, but also "hear" the piece in my head, understand the interaction of the parts, get a sense of interpretation, even conduct the thing, etc. (Incidentally, that plus a dime used to get you a cup of coffee, but it doesn't any more. It's a nice skill to have ... but it's still hard to make a living out of it. Big-time training and practice gets you a lot farther in music than that "natural" skill does, and you still are likely to have trouble making a living.) I hadn't thought of this as analogous to being a "magical natural," but it makes sense.

Here's an idea:
Imp-Chan wrote:Now, all that said, there's still an awful lot more to cover when it comes to magic and how it works in the ES universe. I could continue to make posts like this one about all the different aspects, but I think it might be more fun to handle this in a more interactive way by just starting a new mage school-oriented RPG thread, "Professor Noriko's Introduction to Magic." That way I could continue to talk about all this different magic stuff as Poe and I work it out, but it'd be in a more entertaining and memorable format. There could be lectures, Q&A, and even "labs," though it would have to be slightly more actively GMed if it's to do the job of figuring out what can or can't happen magically. Would there be interest in a thread like that? It doesn't offer anywhere near the level of adventure, but I think it could still have some entertaining moments.

^-^'

As it happens, my character Layla has recently gone off to start "adult education" in magic, as part of what's happening in Rinkaiel. I think it would be very entertaining indeed to find some way to combine that with your idea, possibly as a sub-thread derived from the current Rinkaiel one so that Layla (who after all is still a badass Gewehr Wraith in the game) can continue to interact with all the fun and games going on elsewhere in Rinkaiel. At the very least, what you're describing is very consistent with the "adult education" that she has already started. There might also be opportunities to open some space in the class for new player characters; the specific situation she's in has been written with that possibility in mind.

Let's see what can come of this. I like your idea...
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 26th, 2009, 3:23 pm

So cool to find another music person. To a lesser extent I'm also one of those musical naturals, though without that so-important training I'm pretty useless at communicating what I hear in my head unless I'm singing it (and even then, I never really learned to produce the sound correctly, so while my pitch and timing are generally accurate the quality isn't there). It does make me something of a human ipod, though. I'm curious... when hearing the piece in your head and understanding the parts interaction, do you also experience them almost in terms of space and movement? Can you turn the hearing separate parts ability on and off as you listen?

The magic and music similarity is actually Poe's original explanation, though I may have extended the concept a bit farther than he'd intended because as an explanation it is just so apt.

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 26th, 2009, 4:10 pm

Imp-Chan wrote: I'm curious... when hearing the piece in your head and understanding the parts interaction, do you also experience them almost in terms of space and movement? Can you turn the hearing separate parts ability on and off as you listen?

Yes to the second, and to the first, honestly, no. This came as a great surprise to a former housemate many years ago, who couldn't imagine how anyone could sense and respond to music without it being kinesthetic -- but then again, she was a dancer, which I most assuredly was and am not. You?

I would imagine that there would be parallels to this subject as well, in the magic of the Poe-verse. That was the kind of thing I had in mind when I set up Layla's first exposure to magical pedagogy, specifically in the way a wielder of magic senses the "mana" or whatever you want to call the magical empowerment. Even if you're a "natural" in the way you sense and perform magic, you might not experience it in the same ways that other "naturals" do, e.g. if you're a visual person and they're oriented toward touch or kinesthetics or whatever. Sight unseen, I had no way of knowing whether that lined up with Poe's view of magic when I wrote it, but it seemed to make sense to me. (Opinions?) If it does fit, it's another thing that might-could be used as a starting point for this thread you're thinking about.

Back to work... but this is much more interesting.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby mindstalk » August 28th, 2009, 12:03 am

Interesting.

But how does this map to dwarves vs. humans vs. elves and half-elves vs. titmoths vs. gods? Dwarves *can't* do magic, we're told, and elves... do they just have much better paedagogy, or what? And I think the Ensigerum looked for talent of some sort.

The 'practice' thing reminds me of my idea of Ellis's role as a punching-bag in Meji's skill at destructive magics. Though she's got a decent array of other spells as well.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 28th, 2009, 12:45 am

Some people can't sing because they're tone deaf, or can't sing because they can't speak, or what have you. Just because something is within your theoretical capability doesn't mean it's guaranteed. Actually most of the populace can't sing, at least by the standards comparable to performing magic.

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby AdamZero » August 28th, 2009, 3:57 am

Hmm, this is gonna help with my Necro/Pyro's further... castings... though on your 'no signing required' It made me laugh because there is a comic. www.soulgeek/com/comics/zona and the hero of the tale sings and that is his focus for his magick. (He's got everything from 70's jazz to Elton John to The Trogs to John Denver) Example: Link Example (on this and the next two pages)

But yeah there's got to be some kinda 'magic muscle' in people, human elves and trolls, and obviously training and practice make that stronger. To keep with the musical metaphor. A high school choir boy isn't gonna hold his notes as long as a famous deep chest opera soprano. (Think I got that right)
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby RubberBandMan » August 28th, 2009, 7:56 am

[Off-Topic]

This thread makes me think of "Errant Story: The Opera" Has anyone ever thought about theme tunes for all of the main ES characters? J-pop would likely be Meji's tune.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 28th, 2009, 8:54 am

RubberBandMan wrote:[Off-Topic]

This thread makes me think of "Errant Story: The Opera" Has anyone ever thought about theme tunes for all of the main ES characters? J-pop would likely be Meji's tune.

That's a marvelous idea. (I'll be hearing "Desperado" in my head whenever Jon shows up for the rest of the comic now, probably.) Wonder if we can make a game out of it? We haven't had one of those in too long. Any ideas on how it might work?

Back on the main topic:
Imp-Chan wrote:Some people can't sing because they're tone deaf, or can't sing because they can't speak, or what have you. Just because something is within your theoretical capability doesn't mean it's guaranteed. Actually most of the populace can't sing, at least by the standards comparable to performing magic.

Actually, most of the populace can sing; they just won't. And that is specifically true of Americans and many western Europeans, but not necessarily of other cultures. A Russian will sing at the drop of a shapka, particularly if a drop of vodka is also involved. When I was doing arms-control stuff in the Good Old Days, I was highly popular with my Russian colleagues because I was the rare American who didn't mind making a fool of himself by belting something out with them at the final, vodka-intensive banquets. They had no such inhibitions, whether their singing voices were pleasant (many were, but more were not) or not. On the rare occasions when I got my American colleagues to join in while I was up doing my thing, they really didn't sound any worse than most of the Russians did, even though almost none of them claimed to be "able to sing."

I think there's a parallel to the Poe-verse here. (The more I think about singing, the more parallels like this I'm finding.) The Tsuirakuans are utterly unabashed about "singing" (spellcasting) or "playing an instrument" (using a magical gadget). The Veracians, by contrast, have had it beaten into them that unless they're clergy in the Veracian church, they mustn't sing -- whether they can actually do so or not. If Jon is a representative Farrelite, he can kind of "mumble under his breath"; he mentioned at least once that he knew enough about magic to know that Sarine had screwed around with his memory. Whether this actually translates to magical talent is an open question.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Swift » August 28th, 2009, 10:28 am

How about innate ability to counter-spells? If I'd refer it to music it would be a jam session where the character just respond to the other music. Knowing what magic is and what is possible is best for a counter-speller and practise isn't to be forget. How do you practise that? The more you are hearing what the other is playing the more you know what is best to do to make the music flow. So in that case it would be to change the other's music might it be by breaking the rhythm and make it flow at your pace.

And that's what I though to do with my character, because I've read the first post of this topic while making the character.
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