05/10/10 Shades of Light: The World and Magic

The reason for this post is twofold: Firstly, I need to finally get around to write down some of the stuff regarding the fantasy world I created ages ago. Secondly, I want feedback. I want opinions, suggestions, I want to know why it sucks and how I can improve it, etc. While I really appreciate ‘this is cool’ and the like, I much more appreciate ‘this is cool, but maybe you could do this’. You’re allowed to say it sucks, but unless you also tell me why, and how I can improve it, I’m not really interested.

Now, much as I’d like to say ‘without further ado’, there’s just a little bit of ado. Mainly I’d like to rant about the subject of ‘talking about a fantasy world’ itself.
There are basically two ways for a writer to present the workings of her fantasy world: from the perspective of the writer to the reader, or from the perspective of an inhabitant of that world -usually a scholar, scientist or historian- writing down their experiences. There’s pros and cons to either approach -or rather, there’s pros to either apporach that the other lacks. The latter approach, an in-character account adds immersion. Having letters, lectures of history books in the world telling about the world helps to bring it to life. It can also be used as a tool for the writer to make the reader aware of certain facts within the world that all characters are aware of, but are still important for -or add flavour to- the storyline, this without breaking up the narrative or a dialogue with an out-of-character explanation of why organization Y is the most powerful in city X. For example, everyone in Shades of Light knows what the Kira’Jin are. That doesn’t necessarily mean you do -and, quite frankly, I’d be surprised -and just a little scared- if you did.
A good time to use this is inbetween chapters, when the narrative is interupted anyway. Say a chapter begins where the characters arrive at a new city, before that chapter you can put in an excerpt of a book about that city (usually the introduction) that gives the reader a basic introduction to the place.
Also, keep in mind that these kind of in-world ‘documents’ are written by inhabitants of that world and, as such, can be incorrect or incomplete, as the one who created the world desires.

In this post, however, I will be opting for the other option. I will write about the world as the creator of the world. Main advantage here is that I can explain my rationale behind some of the choices I have made, which is only a problem if you’re not interested in my rationales (in which case, the fuck are you doing here?). I can compare to other ideas, cite my influences, et the cetera. (yes. I know ‘et the cetera’ makes no sense. Fuck off).

Now that the ado is taken care of: Shades of Light.

First, the name. I believe the meaning behind it is obvious to the small, intellectual elite familiar with the phrase ‘shades of grey’. Morality is going to play a big role in my stories. I’ll try to refrain as much as possible from black and white stereotypes or any dichotomy of good and evil. No character will be absolutely just, innocent, or righteous, while every character will have redeeming qualities, or at the very least a goal that is -from their point of view- morally justifiable. With this I will try to have no clear ‘hero’ or ‘villain’. In my writing I will also switch from point of view regularly to further express this. This way, the reader can decide for themself who they feel most sympathetic towards.

The ‘Light’ bit refers to the magic of the world. In it’s essence, ‘magic’ and more specifically ‘magical abilities’ is the ability to control and manipulate various forms of magical energy. When the world was created, vast amounts of energies were summoned to serve as the components of basically everything. And yes, I’m going with the elements earth, water, air and fire here. It gets better. When life was created, all four energies were merged together to create the components: earth became bone, water became blood, air became breath. Fire is unique because fire serves as a sort of catalyst to the other three. Fire represents the passion and will that every living being has -chiefly the will to survive and procreate. And thus the four elements created Life.
When the world was created, large amount of energies that weren’t used up in the creation still lingered, usually within the things they represent (Earth energies lingered in the earth, air energies in the skies, water energies in rivers, oceans, glaciers et the cetera). Again, fire is unique, as it empowers the other three: empowered earth manifests as lava, empowered air is lightning and empowered water appears as steam in geysers. Now how do mortals use magic? Brain-tumors. During pregnancy, these energies (called spirits, by the way) can affect the developing brain of the unborn child, causing a variation that allows them to see and manipulate the energies that affected them (a child affected only by water energies, for example, will only be able to manipulate water energies). Spirits also aren’t static entities: they evolve and adapt to their environment. A water spirit in the cold north will most likely be an ice-spirit, and the people it affects will be able to use ice magic. An earth spirit in the desert would be a sand spirit, and so on.

Then the gods came.

I love that line. I can’t explain why, but I think it’s awesome. Let’s say it again.

Then the gods came, and everything changed.
If magical energy, or spirits are basically nuclear radiation that mutate the brains of unborn babies, then a god is the centre of a gigantic fallout zone.
And when I say gigantic, I mean they cover half the world each.
To specify: two gods descended onto the planet: Anghra, the White Lady and generally believed to be the daughter of the Sun descends onto the southern hemisphere and begins radiating spirits of Light, while Nocturnos (placeholder name. Suggestions are welcome), Prince of the Nightsky -believed to be the son of the moon) descends onto the north pole and transmits spirits of Darkness. These two new types of spirits are much stronger and much more prevalent than the old elemental spirits, and as such more people are ‘tuned’ to Light or Darkness magic than to the other four. As a result people convert to worship of one of these two gods, depending on where they live.
Then I went really boring and decided more gods came!
This time it’s a couple, calling themselves the Empress of the Moon and the Emperor of the Sun (again, placeholder names. Suggestions are welcome. As are suggestions to their actual names). These don’t radiate their own spirits, however their presence (and ‘presence’ is relative, as it’s about a third of the world) causes other spirits to change to what will be known as spirits of Might.

Now, with three sets of gods the stage is set for a world with three major religious factions, and all the plot that comes from that, but I’m 1200 words into an article about magic and I haven’t told you yet what magic does, so here’s a rundown:
Earth, air and water are obvious. Anyone who watched, say, Avatar: the Last Airbender (not the movie. Do NOT watch the movie for it will Eat Your Soul) should have a fairly good idea of what those kinds of magic do. Fire, again, is different. Fire can be used on it’s own, where the magic user consumes energies around them to create fire to manipulate (if none is readily available), however if one is affected both by spirits of fire and another elemental spirit type, they can use the ’empowered’ version of that element (lava, steam, lightning) as well as either element. Again, I point to Avatar: the Last Airbender -yes, I actually like that show. And so should you, damn it!
Light, Darkness and Might are different, as these actually alter the way the body works. As I explain this, keep in mind that the three are closely related and as such some effects will overlap.

Light: an inner energy that allows the user to enhance one or more aspects of their own body: strength, reflexes, speed of thought, etc… Light spirits can also physically alter a person: sometimes one affected to Light energy (a so called Enlightened) is overwhelmed by Light Spirits when they reach puberty that they start growing exponentially in every way, turning into giants (the shortest of which are about two metres and a half, the largest nearing the four metre mark). Giants are physically very strong, but cannot control their powers (there’s no on/off switch).
Sometimes, a similar effect is simulated with adults, by artificially infusing them with light spirits. Their bodies -specifically their muscle tissue- grow exponentionally, but not to the sizes of full giants. These half-giants are still in control of the active powers Light gives (they still can turn physically stronger, faster, etc, than they are ‘in rest’ at will) and their size isn’t as overwhelming when dealing with non-Enlightened (or non-giantifief Enlightened) people. Turning someone into a half-giant isn’t done very often, either. Most Enlightened retain their natural sizes.
Another skill Light gives is so called ‘Light-forging’. Light spirits can be collected and fused into a solid object that can be manipulated by the creator, until it dissipates again after a few minutes. A common use is to stop wounds from bleeding on the battlefield until they can be tended to.

Darkness: Darkness itself manifests in two obvious ways: Blinking and Mutations. Blinking means short distance pseudo-teleportations, where the persons body turns into darkness, and uses darkness to move to another place within sight where the body reassembles. The location must be visible to the person the moment he uses the ability, and the start and destination must be connected by darkness or shadow (where shadow is any bit of existence where there is no light shining on directly.
Mutations are more varied. At it’s most basic form, it’s basically the darkness version of Light-forging, only whatever is ‘created’ must remain connected to the body that creates it, and is basically a part of that body, until it dissipates. These can be tendrils or arms to grab things, as well as ‘bridges’ of darkness created to blink through. Doing this, however, makes the blinking very obvious.
Most darkness spirits, however, take on the aspect of a beast found in the wild, and the Starborn (one capable of Darkness magic) can take on a totem animal and use the spirits tuned to that animal to mutate his own body.
Cue werewolves.

Might: For the magic of Might, I looked to what many people like to believe is reality. Might manifests in two ways: telepathy and telekinesis. Telekinesis is just that: manipulating objects with only your mind. Telepathy, on the other hand, is not reading or controlling someone’s mind (not directly, anyway). Telepathy limits itself to transmitting thoughts to another brain, and is usually used as a form of long-distance communication. This can also be used to create illusions in the minds of others by making it less obvious which thoughts are yours being transmitted and which thoughts are the recipient’s original thoughts, and depending on your own skill and talent, and the recipient’s intellect, this can work to varying effects. It usually works very well on animals, for example.

Now, I mentioned before that the elements were merged and ‘created Life’ and I did use that capital L for a reason. In some areas of the world, spirits of all four elements did merge to create spirits of life, and attunement to these allows the user to manipulate, well, life. More specifically plants and most animals.

Now, I really could go on about this, but I hit the 2000 word mark somewhere during the last paragraph, and I already cut stuff out, so if you’re still reading, thanks. As always, suggestions, comments, feedback, etc are most welcome. Thanks.

~Helena

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5 thoughts on “05/10/10 Shades of Light: The World and Magic

  1. Rage says:

    Hey,
    First thing i’ll say: I can’t help but feel as if some parts of my own world idea have been stolen here.
    Not that I accuse you of stealing, you would have to be able to read my mind to be able to do that.

    The resemblance between your world and mine is suprising, for starters: the morality part is completely the same.
    The concept around magic is still different, allthough there are some similarities.
    In Eldaria (my world concept) the world was also created by a vast amount of “magical” force named the astral. The difference is that in my concept the astral serves a catalysator for unlocking magical powers that are undevelopped in everything that exists. Meaning: an amount of astral will unlock the sleeping magical abilities within a person or creature, when he comes in contact with it.
    Anyway, enough about my world.

    I find your world quite interesting, though I somewhat dislike the part of the elements.
    Why? the idea is allready used for instance. It’s avatar all over again, on that part.

    I can’t answer more at the moment (though I want to, but I’m at work)
    I’ll post some more comments whenever i get time and access to internet.
    (Just moved to new place and no internet yet -_- )

    Laterz

    Rage

  2. Mycroft says:

    I like it. A lot of the elements have been used before, but that’s no crime.

    For the god of night-guy, I’d go with something closer to umbra than nocturnis, if you’re going with latin. just a thought.

    and there are two things I’d like to point out:
    – if you can see it, there is light directly shining on it. I know what you mean (direct line of contact from a light-source, but still)
    – light kinda trumps dark right now.
    Light has superpeople and stuff they can make and everything.
    Dark can teleport to stuff they can see, but only in the dark (which anyone stealthy enough can simulate anyway), and they can make things they can’t let go of. So only melee weapons, probably. The only pro they have is the werewolves (which I think is probably where you were going with this in the first place :p)

    I’d think it not unlikely for dark being able to influence objects through their shadow, for example. picking up a ball, by having your shadow pick up the shadow of the ball. This would allow for some very rudimentary telekinesis, yes, but for more interesting battles and other things too.

    Again, just thoughts and feedback, as you requested.

  3. Rage says:

    Hey,

    Here I am again 🙂
    First a few questions:
    – This magical energy, called spirits, is it right to assume these spirits are sentient?
    Or are they just floating energy, like radiation, that cause the brain to evolve to be able to use the kind of magical energy?

    I like the concept, though it seems to miss something. Beneficial brain tumors doesn’t really sit right.
    Perhaps its just constant exposure to the radiation of these energies, that cause people to evolve somehow, gaining magical powers.

    -Then the gods came. Nice line. Just wondering, where did they come from? When did they actually arrive? Long long ago, even longer ago, or yesterday?
    These are sentient beings right?
    If so, why did they come to this world? They must have some goal, an agenda, with the world or what’s on it.

    -The factions: I’m only making a guess here. You started this out as a template for a rts game? :p
    I allways think of rts when I hear factions 🙂
    There isn’t anything wrong with that, I started the same way (for an rpg game)

    Werewolves, woot 🙂
    Another thing our stories got in common.

    Might magic seems to resemble alot like psionic magic, magic from the mind.
    Also “Might ” seems to be a weird choice of name, for the powers it represents, unless those you talked about are not the only.

  4. Tyranna says:

    @Rage: “- This magical energy, called spirits, is it right to assume these spirits are sentient?
    Or are they just floating energy, like radiation, that cause the brain to evolve to be able to use the kind of magical energy?”

    Maybe 😉

    “Beneficial brain tumors doesn’t really sit right.”

    Nicked it from Mass Effect.

    “-Then the gods came. Nice line. Just wondering, where did they come from? When did they actually arrive? Long long ago, even longer ago, or yesterday?
    These are sentient beings right?
    If so, why did they come to this world? They must have some goal, an agenda, with the world or what’s on it.”

    Someplace; Long long ago; Yes; Yes, they have. In that order.

    “You started this out as a template for a rts game? ”

    Forum RPG

    “Werewolves, woot ”

    You forget the werecats, werebears and were

    “Also “Might ” seems to be a weird choice of name, for the powers it represents, unless those you talked about are not the only.”

    The people who use it are rather cocky. It’s their way of saying their magic is superior.

    @Mycroft “I like it. A lot of the elements have been used before, but that’s no crime.”

    I run of the philosophy that ‘new and unique’ doesn’t necessarily equal ‘not crap’. As I said to you before, I aim to build a world out of awesome, and have the compelling part be the stories the characters tell.

    “For the god of night-guy, I’d go with something closer to umbra than nocturnis, if you’re going with latin. just a thought.”

    Usually I’m not a fan of names meaning something that ‘just happens’ to be a part of the character’s personality. As I said, Nocturnos is a WIP name. Anghra (his counterpart) doesn’t mean light or day or anything related either. In fact, after a quick google search, the name seems to be an evil force of sorts in Zoroastrian mythology, so I might end up changing that too.

    “- if you can see it, there is light directly shining on it. I know what you mean (direct line of contact from a light-source, but still)”

    Indeed. Which is why I specified. The final version might exclude moonlight and starlight but even so the amount of space that can be used would be extremely limited if it was ‘any’ light, rather than ‘direct’ light.

    “- light kinda trumps dark right now.
    Light has superpeople and stuff they can make and everything.
    Dark can teleport to stuff they can see, but only in the dark (which anyone stealthy enough can simulate anyway), and they can make things they can’t let go of. So only melee weapons, probably. The only pro they have is the werewolves (which I think is probably where you were going with this in the first place :p)”

    As a general rule ‘the more powerful, the more likely it’s an anomaly’. Should’ve specified it. The animal totems are much more common than Giants and Half-giants (Almost every Starborn has a totem, while maybe one in fifty Enlightened is a giant or a half-giant). As for making stuff: using energy requires energy. The bigger the stuff, the more energy it takes. After that, it’s just an object -weightless, yes, but not sentient or anything. At most you can use it to create a weapon when disarmed, or, as I said, close wounds.
    I’d argue that, while someone stealthy might simulate teleportation, this isn’t about performing tricks on a stage. Think Nightcrawler versus a non-mutant ninja.

    “I’d think it not unlikely for dark being able to influence objects through their shadow, for example. picking up a ball, by having your shadow pick up the shadow of the ball. This would allow for some very rudimentary telekinesis, yes, but for more interesting battles and other things too.”

    That’s a very good idea. I might end up using that. Thanks!

  5. Selina says:

    It sounds interesting.

    Will say more when I have something constructive to add.

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