Magic in Errant Story

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

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

Graybeard, what I meant when I said that most people can't sing is that most people can't sing WELL. They can readily make noises that are notes in an order that is a melody. They can't generally control their pitch, timbre, dynamics, vibrato... hell, most people don't even count! Magic isn't like just belting out a tune, it requires that precision to be effective. So while yes, most people CAN in theory learn that precision, most can't be arsed to do so, and even those that can tend to struggle with it for years unless they are the previously mentioned natural, and sometimes even then.

Counter spells are a whole different category of magic, actually, and Poe had a fair bit to say about them specifically. There's generally two types, one of which requires a lot of that natural talent and ability, the other of which requires more or less neither (well, enough to do magic in the first place, but no more than that). We'll start with the second, since that's the most common. To stick with our musical explanation (btw, there's no reason someone COULDN'T experience magic as music, they just don't have to), the most common type of counter is to basically make so much "noise" that you drown out the other person's spell. It's the equivalent of clapping your hands over your ears and shouting "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!" at the top of your lungs. This is effectively what the Inanire 312's did (though actually in that specific case they just used up all the available energy in the area for a while, like how lightning dissipates static for a while).

The second type of counter is a great deal more difficult, because it requires the caster to know and understand what the initial spell was... more or less specifically. Then they unravel it by casting another spell that travels against it and changes the overall magic. In our musical terms, this would be counterpoint (for fun examples, try the Music Man or Les Miserables). A mage might study the counters for any number of specific spells, but this has limited usefulness since there are so many potential spells you can't possibly learn or remember counters for them all. Which is why a talented mage generally DOESN'T learn them... they improvise them as needed (though that skill is probably one they were taught). This isn't quite as "simple" as it is in music... there you're improvising the counterpoint in response to something you've heard enough of to predict. In magic, you're doing it almost before you "hear" anything, since by the time you really "hear" it, you're too late.

As a note, counterpoint is probably one my favorite things in music, and improvising counterpoint or at least improvising harmony is one of my preferred radio games. I don't necessarily do it well, but it's a heck of a lot of fun to try.

^-^'

Edit: Oh, and if we're visualizing music for Errant Story, I think the weekly Luminosita services would sound like "We Will Rock You." There's something primal about the slow bloom of the guitar there that always reminds me of summoning/building a god.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby koshkoo » August 28th, 2009, 12:58 pm

while on the fundimentals of magic and how it is precieved and wield, before that... where did magic come from? would it be some infinite source of energy that people could tap into with adequent training? You can't simply hurl out a fireball without cost could you all day long? The cost of magic... as I might put it, comes to question, Something could never come from nothing, Everything has a price, whether its paid before or after. Is there any limiting factors?

the method of harnessing this magical field of energy is sound enough if you put it into context, in present days we know rythem and sound does effect us to a good extend, so amplification of such effects could in theory produce 'spells'
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 28th, 2009, 1:28 pm

I think I've failed to make something clear... magic is not the same thing as music, and mages are not musicians. I'm using music as an analogy for magic because it's something people can do intuitively that has a lot of explanations and study underneath it (or above it, depending on how you look at it).

Magic is also NOT a separate energy... it's an EFFECT, just as music is, so it didn't "come from" anywhere. When you work magic, you use your own innate abilities and those of your environment to manipulate what's already there, just like when you walk over and pick up a chair, or you open your mouth and sing. The only difference is the mechanism. The energy paid is your energy that was needed to manipulate your environment, just like for running or singing. How efficient you are about that manipulation is what makes a difference in how much something "costs." There is no such thing as mana.

Think of it this way. You want to build a fire, so you gather wood and place it just so and then you strike a spark... you could use friction, or flint and steel, or matches (anyone who has tried to get a fire going knows it can take several), or a lighter. The amount of energy that YOU expend in order to use those tools is progressively less with each tool... but the amount of energy in the FIRE is the same regardless. That's because the fire doesn't come from you, it's a product of your actions on your environment. So, when you cast a fireball, you're not making something from nothing. You're just using your environment very efficiently and making something else from what's already there.

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 28th, 2009, 1:41 pm

Imp-Chan wrote:Graybeard, what I meant when I said that most people can't sing is that most people can't sing WELL. They can readily make noises that are notes in an order that is a melody. They can't generally control their pitch, timbre, dynamics, vibrato... hell, most people don't even count! Magic isn't like just belting out a tune, it requires that precision to be effective. So while yes, most people CAN in theory learn that precision, most can't be arsed to do so, and even those that can tend to struggle with it for years unless they are the previously mentioned natural, and sometimes even then.

"(A)rsed to do so"? Please translate. ;)

There is a fundamental difference between "can't" and "won't." What you're describing are the things that, by and large, people can do to make music out of notes and sounds. For example, singing with vibrato is actually quite a natural thing to do, to the point that specialists in certain forms of vocal music (e.g. Renaissance madrigals) that are traditionally performed with a "straight" tone have to "unlearn" it. However, most don't sing well, either through lack of knowledge/training or, more commonly, a conscious decision not to -- either from fear of embarrassing themselves (one of those cultural things; the Russians have no such culture-level hangups about it), some manner of hangups (many men seem to think it un-manly to sing well, for reasons which completely mystify me), bad experiences with someone trying to force them to sing when they didn't want to (grade-school music teachers are to blame for a lot of these), or simply a preference for investing their creative energies in other things. Yes, there are people whose singing skillz are limited because they're tone deaf, physically unable to drop the jaw or provide diaphragm support, etc. In my experience, which is considerable, they are a distinct minority.

I belabor this point here because it's actually quite important in understanding how magic works in the Errant Road-verse. Various things in the main story have led me, and I suspect others here, to the conclusion that large parts of the population of the Poe-verse have the magical equivalent of tone deafness. There is just something about magic, so the evidence (largely stuff that Meji said) seems to assert, that the run-of-the-mill Veracian cannot do. To use another analogy: I'm a very poor swimmer, but that isn't a "cannot" thing, rather one that results from my discomfort at doing it and a few other things that could, in principle, be overcome. But I cannot fly, because I don't happen to have wings. I'd always assumed, based again on what Meji was saying about the Veracians (granted, hardly a detached, objective source...), that the Veracian non-magic users were more a matter of being unable to fly than unwilling to swim, with the rare Veracians who could use magic co-opted into the church and prevented from passing on their genes. The Tsuirakuans don't lack this whatever-it-is; although few of them have the proficiency to become an archmage, they clearly can use things like magical door locks. And as for the other humans, well, we really don't know enough about them to be sure. If this assessment is incorrect, it's important to know about it, because it can have strong effects on character development in the game.

Imp-Chan wrote:Edit: Oh, and if we're visualizing music for Errant Story, I think the weekly Luminosita services would sound like "We Will Rock You." There's something primal about the slow bloom of the guitar there that always reminds me of summoning/building a god.

Interesting. To me the Luminosita services (the regular services, if any, not the smitings) would sound like the inane, puerile "praise music" that has come to dominate many church services -- to the point that it's the music, rather than any issues of belief, that has made me view services of my own church with out-and-out horror. Apologies to anyone reading whose tastes differ from mine on this ... but I'm right. :mrgreen:
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 28th, 2009, 1:53 pm

One other thing.
Imp-Chan wrote: There is no such thing as mana.

But:
Imp-Chan wrote:Think of it this way. You want to build a fire, so you gather wood and place it just so and then you strike a spark... you could use friction, or flint and steel, or matches (anyone who has tried to get a fire going knows it can take several), or a lighter. The amount of energy that YOU expend in order to use those tools is progressively less with each tool... but the amount of energy in the FIRE is the same regardless. That's because the fire doesn't come from you, it's a product of your actions on your environment. So, when you cast a fireball, you're not making something from nothing. You're just using your environment very efficiently and making something else from what's already there.

In the game -- but NOT in Errant Story -- there has been a tendency to treat "mana" as the magical equivalent in your analogy, not of the flint or matches or steel, but of the firewood. The choice of the term was perhaps unfortunate, but I don't really see it as at odds with the way you're describing things as working.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 28th, 2009, 2:45 pm

Oh dear. You know you've watched too much BBC when... I meant that most people don't care enough to put in the effort, or even enough to understand why it would make a difference.

Now, as to the problem with magical ability... For a musical example, I often sing with my friend. We like music, and by normal human standards are probably decent singers, though she is a far stronger singer than I am. At present neither of us would be qualified to be professionals, or probably even gifted amateurs. (In other words, if this were magic we would not be good enough to actually do any magic yet, assume that spells only work when you're functioning at professional quality).

If I put all that effort in, I might be able to produce that professional quality someday far in the future, because what I need to learn to do better is the physical process. That's complicated unto itself, but it's attainable with focus, practice, and instruction. However in my friend's case, even if she put the effort in, she probably would not ever be able to produce that quality, though I think she could readily produce to one step below it. That's because she too could learn the physical process better, but her main problem isn't that she doesn't have the physical ability to produce the notes... it's that she doesn't naturally know how to tell if she has produced them (or more to the point, she can't tell when she's off or even when she needs to adjust for the ensemble). She is lacking a strong sense of music, particularly relative pitch. As it happens, she's had more vocal training than I have, but because she doesn't hear it when she's slightly sharp or flat, she would have greater difficulty progressing from her present state. With effort, of course she might learn to hear it better... but that's a lot harder to teach, and takes a lot longer, and until you learn it for all practical purposes you "can't" do it.

Now back to magic. At the one level, the Veracian populace isn't incapable. Like my friend, most are amply blessed with the ability to learn the physical skills. The problem is that they don't tend to have a natural sense of magic, and their culture primes them to never really understand that they can learn one. My friend knows what she's missing because she trusts my ears, so she knows it's there to learn if she worked for it. The Veracians don't trust the closest magical culture, they don't get it that magic even could be accessible to them. Without that openness, acquiring a "sense" of magic is just not very likely to happen... and the sense of magic is absolutely necessary to produce it.

Does that clarify things a bit?

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Drannin » August 28th, 2009, 2:54 pm

This is a fascinating discussion... it reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine a while back concerning, of all things, genetics.

In the nature vs. nurture debate, a lot of people fail to recognize that it's actually nature AND nurture. In the case of natural talent vs learned skills, some people just have a knack for certain things. Maybe it's just a mind that's able to tune into things, like mentally disassembling an engine piece by piece, or a body that's just well-built for swimming. Some people just have a knack. However, this doesn't mean that these skills are exclusive to a small handful of folks with the right sequence of ACTG's. Pretty much anyone can learn to use a certain skillset, if they work at it hard enough. However, there are a few people who can just do certain things really well.

Put another way, everyone's born with a 'toolbox,' of knacks and aptitudes. How this 'toolbox' is used is basically up to the will of the individual.

Am I in the right ballpark concerning magical ability?
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Imp-Chan » August 28th, 2009, 2:57 pm

Graybeard wrote:One other thing.
Imp-Chan wrote: There is no such thing as mana.

But:
Imp-Chan wrote:Think of it this way. You want to build a fire, so you gather wood and place it just so and then you strike a spark... you could use friction, or flint and steel, or matches (anyone who has tried to get a fire going knows it can take several), or a lighter. The amount of energy that YOU expend in order to use those tools is progressively less with each tool... but the amount of energy in the FIRE is the same regardless. That's because the fire doesn't come from you, it's a product of your actions on your environment. So, when you cast a fireball, you're not making something from nothing. You're just using your environment very efficiently and making something else from what's already there.

In the game -- but NOT in Errant Story -- there has been a tendency to treat "mana" as the magical equivalent in your analogy, not of the flint or matches or steel, but of the firewood. The choice of the term was perhaps unfortunate, but I don't really see it as at odds with the way you're describing things as working.


Effectively, magic is kinda like physics, but without all those pesky rules getting in the way and limiting our belief in what's possible (though if we're really honest about it we in the real world don't have things figured out all THAT well ourselves yet, we mostly operate on theories that appear to apply anyways). It still acts on physical elements, though, so I suppose effectively the firewood would actually be sub-atomic particles or something, and you might as well call it mana as anything else if you've already started doing so. Just be aware that mana probably won't be included in the eventual game system.

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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby Graybeard » August 28th, 2009, 11:40 pm

Yes, that does clarify things; thanks.
Imp-Chan wrote:Effectively, magic is kinda like physics, but without all those pesky rules getting in the way and limiting our belief in what's possible (though if we're really honest about it we in the real world don't have things figured out all THAT well ourselves yet, we mostly operate on theories that appear to apply anyways). It still acts on physical elements, though, so I suppose effectively the firewood would actually be sub-atomic particles or something, and you might as well call it mana as anything else if you've already started doing so. Just be aware that mana probably won't be included in the eventual game system.

As a physicist (first, and musician second -- a lot easier to make a living that way than the other way around), I find the "kinda like physics" part entertaining, because it rather misunderstands what the laws of physics, particularly quantum mechanics, are all about. In a nutshell, quantum mechanics, in combination with statistical physics, admits all manner of weird stuff as possible. It's just that most of it is not very probable -- and that creates opportunities for some physics-based approaches to understanding magic (and religion) as the skewing of probabilities. That's probably a subject for another time, however.

Back on magic, mana, etc., and for the benefit of new players as much as for this discussion: the way we've been treating magic in Errant Road basically assumes that there are three constraints on what is magically possible in any given situation:
  • The expertise of the mage doing the casting;
  • The energy of the mage, which is a different thing and is equivalent to the flint/matches/lighter in your analogy;
  • And the availability of the magical resource, whatever it is -- the "firewood," so to speak.
The first of these is more or less self-evident and broadly lines up with the way you've been describing magical proficiency. The second, which is based on various things in Errant Story (Sarine's long nap after she healed herself following the fight with Melrin, Ianilis' loss of consciousness after fixing Leah), presumes that the mage must expend some of his/her own energy to shape the magic ("mana" or whatever) to his/her will/plan/imagination. A highly proficient mage, it is presumed, can shape magic to accomplish a particular thing through less expenditure of his/her personal energy than a beginner; this is the part that has a real-world parallel in what neuroscience is learning about intelligence, which I mentioned some time back. The "firewood" constraint is the part where some extrapolation from the Poe-verse has been going on, and it is based on some speculation as to exactly what Luminosita is all about. That can be revisited later, when/if Errant Story itself ever sheds more light on Luminosita, but in essence, it posits that some (not necessarily all) magical "firewood" is extrinsic to the mage and CAN be used up, at least temporarily, in a particular setting -- exactly as real, physical firewood, in your example, can.

It's the combination of the latter two of those things that we have taken to calling "mana" within Errant Road. That's really just a shorthand for purposes of game playability. So are we on the right path here? I have no problem with abandoning the "mana" term, if it would be helpful to do so.
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Re: Magic in Errant Story

Postby koshkoo » August 29th, 2009, 1:29 am

I'd agree on abandoning the mana term, using it gives people an idea of numbers and figures, which I doubt would work in free form. At the same time thanks for clearing this out on magic usage, last thing I want is a bunch of scary devil girls running around tossing fireball without the ability to control it, spell backfire anyone?
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