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Magic FAQ

From ThornsWiki

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If you’re interested in Thorns’ magic system, we recommend that you read through the pages linked on the Magic directory, as well as the guide, So You Want to Do Magic.

However, we get a lot of questions about how magic works right off the bat. Thorns isn’t like a lot of other sites, and a lot of character concepts just don’t work with our system; you can’t be a necromancer or a warlock with a demonic patron. It’s important to get an idea of how our magic system works before you decide whether or not this is the site for you.

It might seem complicated, but most players get the hang of it in no time, and staff are always excited to answer questions and spitball ideas.

Thorns magic is exciting, and there’s a lot you can do with it—we love creativity, and taking initiative! If you like what you see, you’ll be coming up with questions

Contents

The Basics

Who can cast? Can anyone cast?

Casting is done by communicating with the Mona through a language called Monite. At this time of play, only Galdori and wicks are genetically capable of casting; the other races (specifically Humans but also currently Passives) cannot as they are not biologically built to channel mona.

If magic is just a language, why can't my human cast?

Although the language and grammar of Monite are critical to magic, the practical application of magic is based in an innate communication ability. If the magical gene is not present in a character, they will not be able to do magic even if they recite spells until their ears turn blue.

Your human can theoretically learn monite, although it is unlikely; wicks tend to keep to themselves, and written magical education is guarded closely by Brunnhold. Remember, magic is considered sacred to the galdori in addition to the knowledge that access to magical ability as biological in nature. No galdor—even a sympathizer—would ever knowingly share that information with one of the lower races, and grimoires are tightly regulated.

What kind of magical energy can I use?

Mona are both matter and energy in this world. They are the force that makes everything happen. When an arcane race speaks their language, they respond.

Is magic moderated? Do I have to roll?

Yes and no. For more information, see the So You Want to Do Magic guide. In short, we’re lenient, but we like to regulate it a little to keep things unpredictable, lore friendly, and exciting.

Since there’s magic, are the gods real?

That is left up to personal interpretation, although many Circlists believe that the mona are proof of their existence. The Mythic Beasts are said to be imbued with power through influence of the mona as well, though they are not considered deities by Circlists.

How is magic linked with science?

Magic and science are both in service of the gods; they are not necessarily seen as separate. The mona are scientifically provable, after all, and divine—and many actually take the existence of the mona as proof of the existence of the Circle.

Most of the Conversations utilized by galdori require a working knowledge of one secular, or non-magical, subject or another. Any living conversationalist must have a more than passing knowledge of anatomy to do anything as simple as mend tissue, let alone mend a bone; and perceptive conversationalists study psychology and the brain extensively to ensure that they can manipulate it. Physical conversationalists are masters of physics; they can move the boulder, yes, but they have to be able to do the math in order to formulate their spell properly.

Furthermore, magic aids scientific knowledge; one of the Noble Uses of magic, in fact, is the pursuit of knowledge. Quantitative conversation can be used to take measurements. Living conversation can augment secular medical treatment and, in dire cases, save lives that would otherwise be lost.

Science is in the service of magic; magic is in the service of science. Both are in the service of the gods.

Are the mona just atoms?

They’re comparable, but not the same. The mona are atoms, if atoms could change themselves at will, make group decisions, and understand language.

Is monite the only thing used in casting?

Not necessarily! Along with a good base in scientific knowledge, many casters draw spell circles and use various apparati. You can read more about them on Magical Terminology, as well as the other Magic pages.

Spell circles, hyperoscillators, and all those other whosie-whatsits are just additional, however. They do not take the place of communicating with the mona via monite.

I keep reading words like “prodigium” and “amandation” in posts.

See Magical Terminology for a handy list of magic-related words. You don’t have to know all of them to play!

Can my villain commit crimes/be cruel to others/be generally evil with magic?

Most law-abiding galdori would say no, because it violates the Noble Uses. However, the mona are amoral; they care less that a caster is good and more that a caster is consistent and confident.

We say: yes, absolutely! We love our villains.

But keep in mind that there are consequences for every action, and magical law is enforced. What a pirate can get away with is not necessarily what a Brunnhold professor or politician can get away with. Depending on your character’s social position, they’d better be good at covering up their tracks, or they’re liable to fall from grace or be convicted of crimes.

Some examples of magical behavior that are against the law:

  • Writing and casting spells that haven’t been approved by authorities in the universities. All licit grimoires are at least approved, if not published, by one of the six universities. This leads some galdori to trade in illicit grimoires, and they’re quite the hot property on the black market. But be careful; unless you know the ins and outs of every clause in a spell, if it’s not regulated, you may not know the consequences of what you’re experimenting with.
  • Circulating said illicit grimoires.
  • Casting on, experimenting with, or magically abusing any member of the lower races—especially passives, whose passivity is believed to make traffic with them unpredictable and dangerous. The galdori are meant to be benevolent shepherds of the lower races.
  • Effectively, breaking any law with magic instead of without it. Whether these magically-executed crimes should be treated as magical aberration is controversial.

But wait, the galdori are oppressive. Don’t abuses against the lower races go unpunished? Who cares?

Of course, corruption abounds. Simply because experimentation on and abuse of the lower races has been outlawed does not mean it does not occur. These abuses occur in any oppressive system, and when the courts are predominantly galdori, the word of humans, wicks, and especially passives is not always believed.

Keep in mind that, while content with the lot of humans in the factories and on the streets, as well as passives in Brunnhold—out of sight and out of mind, effectively—most galdori would balk at outright, one-sided violence against them. If the abuse of power is exaggerated enough, and there are galdori witnesses, these crimes are punished severely.

I had a cool idea for a spell and you guys said “no.” Why?

If the answer is “no”, it’s not because we want to staunch your creativity. We’ll usually try to help you achieve that goal through different mechanics, or at least suggest alternatives.

We’re an extremely flexible site—chances are, if you want to accomplish something with a storyline, you’ll be able to see it through one way or another!—but the rules are there for a reason. Thorns wouldn’t have that distinctive Thorns feel without its magic lore, and all we ask is that you enjoy it for what it is and respect our staff and playerbase.


Do all galdori and wicks cast? What are some of the reasons they might not?

Not all galdori and wicks cast! A person of either race can choose not to practice magic. Most galdori are automatically enrolled in their Kingdom's University such as Anaxas' Brunnhold at the age of ten, but this is not always true; if a galdor does not wish to learn magic, they will be pressured to do so, but not forced. Not all wicks learn magic; many never progress beyond a basic level.

Most galdori and wicks have fields because they do cast occasionally. The mona have a long memory, and tend to stick around. However, if an arcane individual ceases to cast at all for many years, their field will atrophy and eventually dissipate.

Some galdori or wicks are functional passives (also known as false passives) due to developmental defects, speech impediments or injury. This is very different from genetic passivity. If caught early enough, it is handled the same way, but some galdori become functionally passive as adults or elderly, and are generally treated with the same respect as other galdori (if occasionally made fun of or purposefully sidelined in favor of galdori with casting abilities). Such individuals in the wick community are, like parse, generally treated with respect by wicks.

A severe backlash episode or magic addiction do not always lead to functional passivity, but both also can. In general, as well, galdori or wicks who struggle with mental stability - such as lacking purposeful intention or suffering from heavy delusions or a break with reality - will often find casting difficult; some such choose deliberately to abstain from casting.

Galdori and Magic

At which stages of life will a galdor learn the Advanced level of magic?

Most galdori never get beyond what they learn in school. Simply put, magic is more of a cultural thing for many galdori. The pursuit of knowledge is important, yes, but most go into work where magic is not a necessity. During a student's formative years, Brunnhold teaches Elementary magic and the higher-level classes begin to brush the surface of Intermediate magic.

Some adults begin to study Intermediate magic on their own steam; some return to Brunnhold to work on a doctorate thesis, or study further to become instructors. Many take up apprenticeships under Magisters or advanced professors. Most galdori do not go this far; this is only for those who want to go into an area of magic for their profession, whether it be professorship, science, Quantitative study, theory, or advanced magical defense.

It is not at all normal to meet a galdor who has mastered the Advanced level outside of the University.

What is a True Name? How does one find it?

Every galdor—every individual with a soul, according to some—has a “true name”, or the name by which the mona identify them.

Learning one's true name is a pursuit that a galdor may choose to undertake after they have mastered Advanced magic. The process is different for each galdor, and is extremely personal. It is uncouth to even question another galdor about his true name journey unless he has chosen to speak about it. In truth, though it is referred to as a ritual, there is nothing standardized about it; it usually involves long meditation and months and months without contact with others. Sometimes galdori try for decades to learn their true name, though sometimes it comes quicker. Often, galdori who seek their true name go off on a trip by themselves.

Once the true name is learned, a galdor's magic becomes more powerful than ever. Their relationship with the mona is solidified, and they may cast spells without speaking, so strong is their connection with them.

For more information, see Finding a True Name. It is currently unknown whether humans and passives can find their true names, as the process is inherently magical. If any wick ever has, there is no record of it, and any respectable galdori would vehemently deny the possibility.

Can I make a galdor who didn't attend Brunnhold?

Yes. Some galdori do not attend the University, and are trained at home with their parents or tutors, or, if orphaned (and not taken in by the state for some reason), not at all. Some attend a different school in another kingdom. Keep in mind that all magic is taught, and if your galdor does not attend school or seek alternative instruction, he will not know magic by default.

On Passives

Why can't I control my passive character's magic spell?

The point of the passive's diablerie is that it is uncontrollable, left up to the fates (or, in this case, the mods). Passives do not even know what their ability is until they unleash it by accident. It is usually a very powerful spell, occasionally fatal to those around the passive, if not the passive themselves, and we want to be able to regulate when and where it goes off.

A passive’s diablerie going off can be an incredibly compelling narrative device. If you’d like for this to happen to your character, please let staff know. However, we prefer for diablerie to be written by a member of staff, not a player. Remember that it is something that happens to your character, and all your character can control is how they react to it and what they do with the aftermath.

Can I learn to control my passive's ability?

No, not yet.

Galdor Magic and Wick Magic

Can wicks cast galdor magic, and vice versa?

Wicks can theoretically do Elementary-level spells, but their power is limited. They do not learn magic in the structured environment of Brunnhold, so their knowledge will be scattered and sparse. There is a collection of unofficial spells that wicks use, known as a Spoke's Almanac.

A wick is not "built" to sustain galdori magical power. All long-term effects of magic use are accelerated for wicks who cast galdori spells at even an Elementary level. A wick can never reach Master level of galdor magic; it would, most likely, kill them.

Can a galdor pose as a human or wick, and vice versa?

Yes and no.

Your character’s field, or lack thereof, will give him away instantly to anyone who comes near enough to feel it. Galdor fields are more organized and powerful than wick fields because of their formal education. It is possible to suppress a field, which can allow for some stealth provided you are sufficiently disguised; however this can only be done for short periods of time as it damages one’s relationship with the mona when it becomes a frequent habit.

There tend to be genetic differences between the races. It is quite simple to tell a galdor from a human even without the field; see Genetics and Appearances for more information. With the exception of the tall, albino Giorans and stalwart, physically-focused Hessians, galdori are much smaller and more slight than humans. Most arcane individuals, depending on location, have defining features—the majority of Anaxi galdori, for example, have red hair, and many have gold eyes.

However, because wicks are a factor in this consideration, the differences can get more blurry. A wick can be slight, red-haired and gold-eyed, and from a distance, you might not know.

The line between galdori and wicks is less clear-cut than a lot of galdori would like to think. Galdor-born wicks have been put through university educations as galdori, graduated undetected, and gone on to live normal galdor lives, even settling down with “other” galdori and having families.

If caught with adequate proof, however, the consequences for a wick posing as a galdor in this manner are severe; said wick would likely be executed. Any lower race learning the secrets of galdori magic would be a huge risk to the established social order (and, probably, a horrifying revelation).

Why are there "noble uses of magic"? Can galdori use magic for useful things, like lighting fires?

Noble uses are self-imposed rules of conduct that the galdori have developed over the centuries. The noble uses state that magic may only be used for three purposes: conquest, acquisition of knowledge and glorification of the gods. A large amount of what magic is used for can be justified under these rules.

Occasionally, galdori will use small, simple spells to achieve simple things in their lives, but this is rarer than you might think. For one, it takes an enormous amount of energy to cast spells, and often it's easier to do things the old-fashioned way. Galdori also do not want to damage their relationship with the mona, who hold them to a high standard of ethics.

The fourth, unofficial noble use of magic is "helping others," and in recent years that has become significantly more acceptable in society. In an emergency, it is acceptable to help someone with the use of a spell. For example, healers commonly use magic to help the sick or injured, and magic can be used to douse fires or stop someone from falling to their death.

Why is it that a wick can get away with using base magic and a galdor cannot?

A galdor could get away with it once in a while, but most would not try. It is against the galdori mindset, against everything they've been taught. Besides, most galdori rely on their magic and use it far more often than a wick would; few galdori would risk upsetting the mona just to use their magic to light a fire. However, most galdori do break the taboo at least once in their lives.

Scientifically speaking, wick magic is far simpler than galdori magic, even at its most advanced. The mona are pickier at higher levels of magic. The more advanced the magic gets, the more the mona hold the caster to the noble uses.

How Thorns is Different

Can a sorcerer see the future/past?

No. The term “clairvoyance” might’ve confused you, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. Clairvoyant Conversation is scrying rather than seeing the future; you can only access what is actually happening, at this moment.

Time is linear: the past is gone except in memories (which can be accessed perceptively), and the future has yet to be made. Anaxi believe in Evers, or a theoretical infinity of dimensions created by the potential outcomes of every decision. If you could see into the future, which future would you even see? The future in Thorns is not fixed.

Furthermore, clairvoyants create a ley channel with a witness (or a recipient, if the channel is two-way) and seeing through their eyes/hearing through their ears/etc. You can only “see” over long distances by getting inside somebody else’s head, effectively.

However, souls leave imprints on objects and places. A clairvoyant seer might use a lock of hair, a vial of blood, or even an object touched by an individual to find them and create a reliable, stable connection.

If seeing the future is impossible, why do wicks claim they can read palms and tell fortunes?

Wick beliefs vary much more wildly than galdori. The mona cannot show you the future, but many wicks respect mystical practices that are not necessarily arcane in the same sense as monic conversation.

On top of this, humans are largely ignorant of what magic can and cannot do.

There is also a certain degree of showmanship about wick “magic”. Humans will gladly pay for a spectacle even if they are doubtful about its veracity or reliability. The human population of Vita frequently works long hours and suffers poor living conditions; a little spectacle, or a hopeful “reading”, can be a reprieve.

Besides, the art of card reading arguably has more to do with reading the person across the table. A witch with good sense doesn’t need to see into the future to tell you that marriage is going to end in flames.

What does “witch” mean in the game's context?

The word “witch” is used to describe a female wick, and nothing more.

Can I summon the dead/turn into a vampire/suck out someone's soul?

No. Vampires, werewolves and things of that nature do not exist in this game.

For more information about death and the Cycle, see Religion. Ghosts do exist, and they tend to hang around phasmonia like Brunnhold’s Ghost Town and Mugroba’s Serkaih. They also can appear in places that had the most emotional attachment for that individual ghost when it was alive, whether in a place it enjoyed or where something traumatic happened. Their existence is debatable in public opinion—a fairy tale to most people. While some fringe scholars have devoted their lives to the study of ghosts, they’re not the norm.

It is possible to be possessed by a ghost, but you should discuss this with a staff member before you even consider incorporating it into a storyline.

Raen are souls outside of the reincarnation cycle who must steal living bodies unless they wish to dissipate. However, they are unique to Thorns and follow their own rules; please peruse that article, as well as Playing a Raen, if you’d like to know more.

Are there "Dark Arts"?

The mona are amoral, and magic is, for the most part, neutral. There are a few spells that might be seen as "evil", such as spells that harm others, destroy things, or control the mind. However, their “evil” is entirely subjective.

The galdori have laws governing the use of magic, especially mind control, and they attempt to monitor it. If a galdor breaks the law, and is caught, they are punished for it. The Arcane Court regulates what is called “magical aberration”, but this is mostly the circulation of illicit grimoires and fraternizing with passives.

While the abuse of magic on other galdori is theoretically severely punished, the perceptive conversation is greatly abused in the world of politics. Furthermore, while the use of manipulative and harmful magic on the lower races is deeply frowned upon—the galdori are, after all, their benevolent shepherds—their word is not often taken seriously in a court of law without backup.

Can I use other spellings of magic, such as "magick?"

We prefer you don't, for continuity's sake, but you can also use the word “conversation”.

Does galdor mean sorcerer? Is it from Lord of the Rings?

Out of character, the word “galdor” stems from the Norse term galdr, which means spell or incantation. The idea of structured spell verse was originally based on the Norse concept of lyrical spells. We not take the word from Lord of the Rings - as we understand it, Tolkien has a lot of Norse influences, and may also use the words.

The galdori are a race; a sorcerer is an occupation. Not all galdori are sorcerers, but you must be a galdor to be a sorcerer.

Can I invent a spell that rips open a new dimension/creates a portal/destroys the world/etc?

No.

Can my character begin the game knowing his true name?

No.

Can my character use a magic wand or staff?

They could try, but it wouldn't do them any good, and most wouldn’t try; it just isn’t done. Culturally, magic comes from the body, not objects. Sorcerers cast through language or their hands.