Magic in Winter’s Oasis has both an in character and out of character structure. In character, Magic is known to be magic. It is not well understood. Out of character, Magic is better understood, but as it is not real, we have only principles to work from to know what the framework of magic will allow.
That is to say, Magic on Winter’s Oasis has its own rules, and these rules have some semblance of scientific basis.
The difficulty with any magic system is that it inherently introduces new ‘physics’ that, while easily controlled with one author, or in the context of a heavily scripted game, can cause problem when given to multiple writers and freeform role play. The goal of Winter’s Oasis magic system is to give more color to the world without causing an imbalance.
This article is an explanation of magic, its rationale, and its limitations.
In the in character realm, characters usually think of Magic in elemental groupings. Water, fire, lightning, air, and earth. All of these are considered to be separate entities. The in-character understanding of magic is fairly limited.
Fire takes considerable skill, and lightning even more skill. Air tends to be the easiest.
Air magic really encompasses two phenomena. That of moving an object, and that of moving air. A mage can lift and object using magic and toss it around, or they can shape air itself to make whirlwinds, or gusts of air, or what have you.
Water magic is able to be used on most liquids, despite being called water magic. Earth magic allows one to move dirt around and create structures from rock.
Fire magic is considered related to Lightning Magic, but it is not well understood just /how/ they are related.
Magic, from an out of character perspective, is much better understood, and easier to work with when planning plot ideas and character generation.
While any explanation of fictional magic is going to be dubious on some level, the running explanation of how magic works is that simulations in the mind of how matter should operate if manipulated. If one has magical ability and can imagine and ‘feel’ a substance morphing, or air heating with particular vividness, they can often accomplish making this happen in reality.
It is understood that this ability of ‘feeling’ ones way through the way matter should behave, in an almost empathetic way, is why those who study magic tend to have very strong souls. This is also why automata are unable to cast. It is possible that an old Svargan automaton with empathy-centric features might be able to gain some magic abilities, but this has not been tested in game as of this writing.
Magic comes in a couple of different types with distinct scope.
Physical movement is telekinesis. When dealing with a substance that is generally homogenous, such as water, oil, or what have you, magic can be used to shape and move it. This means air, water, and earth magic all operate in a similar manner.
Items that are not properly homogenous, such as a person or a desk, can’t be reshaped. But they may be able to be blown around with a good gust of wind, depending on the skill of the user.
Changes in potential difference and electron excitement are possible in broader strokes. This enables someone to cause a spark between two surfaces. However, these tend to be sparks with a great deal of voltage, and relatively low amperage.
Using magic to power electric machines may be possible, but there are not many such machines to power in Loka, and it would take a greater understanding of Electricity than Lokan science currently understands— not to mention the knowledge of what any ancient Svargan machine might require for power is difficult to know at best.
Skilled mages are occasionally employed as telegraph operators, colloquially known as ‘lightning slingers’.
Electrical energy also applies to the energy of electrons— heat (and thus, cold) can be transferred. Heating up a spot of air really quickly allows one to create a fireball. These fireballs don’t sustain well on their own unless they manage to land on something flammable before the mage ceases to power the fire.
Fire Magic and Lightning magic are considered more difficult than other sorts of magic— lightning especially so.
Loka’s premiere magic school is that of the Disciples of Skanda. The mages that come from their school on the top of Cetayanti mountain are known as the Cela.
If there is a ‘cutting edge’ to magic, the Cela are thought to be it. Their studies and training are credited with discovering and refining Lightning Magic. However, it is thought that a few especially talented tribal magicians managed to discover it on their own independently.
There are smaller schools in other towns, but none of established note. Tribes often have their own internal magical traditions, shamans, and rules concerning use of magic.
When someone is going to practice magic, it cannot be done without some sort of outward action. The Cela are most known for their physical sort of dance that they teach students, but other manners of ‘focusing’ energy have been seen, such as chanting, singing, or waving a staff.
Being physically prevented in some way from doing these focusing actions would force the mage to perform some different action that /might/ allow them to cast, but they would be able to do it much less effectively. For instance, if a dancing caster broke a leg, they might attempt to focus by chanting or waving their arms, but as its not what they’re most comfortable with, they’d be hindered significantly.
Casting also requires a good deal of mental concentration and can lead to fatigue the longer, stronger, and more complex the cast. A good deal of magic training involves learning one’s limit, and learning how to cast in situations where one might be more apt to panic. Magic users who overstrain themselves may pass out and become vulnerable to attack.
Aside from a good diet and proper sleep, which are known to improve many activities, the best known transient boosters of magic are certain plants and fungi that grow around the thaw. Some of these have been distilled into drugs, which can be quite expensive.
The Cela tend to frown on such use of substances to enhance magic ability, and students who use them have been known to be expelled or given stringent punishments within the school.
Tribal shamans tend to make use of the plants in special ceremonies, often used alongside hallucinogens, and so many tribes do not have a stigma against their use (but may have hesitations about using a distilled drug form).
Substances which enhance magic ability tend to be addictive, with a pleasant high accompanying the boost. They are followed with a similar ‘crash’ afterward, that is marked by more somber moods and weakened magical ability. The severity of this up and down cycle depends on the strength of the drug and the user’s tolerance to it.
Frequent users of magic enhancing drugs can build tolerances that require higher and higher doses.
Likewise, there are some substances which are known to dampen magic ability. The most well known of these is Anticelizine.
Players are given latitude to build within the framework of the magic system to carve their own niche into the world. Ideas will be considered if they are not game-breaking. Magic outside of the framework is not permitted— we do have to keep the scope of magic consistent and fair.
There are plenty of examples of how one could expand the system to meet their needs. For instance, healing magic is commonly inquired about. While healing flesh is outside of the bounds of the magic system, medical operations like setting a bone, cauterizing a wound, and performing a magic-enhanced Heimlich maneuver can all be done or assisted with magic.