Thursday, July 9, 2015

Things That I Like: A Few Systems of Magic for the Taking

Like everything, these ideas are free for the taking. Consider them to be public domain. Just… grab them, and use them, and stuff. That’s what they’re there for.
  1. Financial Astrology
Developed in the throes of the Great Depression, financial astrology is the art of using magic to make money, and using money to make magic. To those that have sworn the oaths, the signs of the stars unfold to their understanding. They are able to decipher the currents of the future, at least so far as it pertains to currency. The stock market becomes child’s play to them that have sold their eyes and their hearts to the great god Pluto, and the more learned among them can predict its changes to the minute.
What they do next is based upon a principle that everyone knows: Wealth shapes the world. Only the merchant-kings know how true that statement is, however. Currency has an effect on the ley lines of the world, which themselves have subtle effects on the environment when “plucked” by the presence of money. Where a ley line is plucked, and how strongly (that is, how much money is affecting it) determines what happens, so that the right amount in the right place can lead to decreased social stability in another city.
With the right plucks nearly anything can be done, with the caveat that ley lines influence only living organisms and not natural systems like the weather, and so the financial astrologers carefully manipulate the flow of money to get the changes that they want (which is not to say that others want it— they are not a unified lot). With enough money, ley lines can be plucked so severely that they actually shift in place.
The one thing about their condition that makes life difficult is that they cannot physically handle money. Credit cards and checks are okay, but actual money catches fire or melts in their hands, leaving them with dross (and burned hands).
  1. Orthosurgy
A system of magic based upon the principle of sympathy, using teeth and nails as foci. While teeth are reasonably potent and retain their power until destroyed, a single full nail is useful for no more than a couple of weak spells, to say nothing of a mere clipping. They may, however, be used for reanimation, whereas teeth can do nothing to one that has died (including those that have suffered death temporarily), and reanimation is not a terribly powerful spell. Full resurrection may require years of clippings, but to turn a corpse into a shambling walker bound to one’s will for a few weeks requires only a few nails.
However, whether they be teeth or nails foci must be taken, not given. This is why children leave offerings for the tooth fairy. It robs the leavings of their power by explicitly giving them out to anyone who would be interested in taking them.
The power of orthosurgy is a gift, however, twisted, and it must be passed on to another in order to persist. Without a declared heir, the death of an orthosurgeost permanently reduces their number by one. Heirs may not be replaced except in the case of premature death, so orthosurgeosts are careful about speaking the “naming words.” Orthosurgeosts become more inhuman as time goes on, first in mind and eventually in body. Among other things they are prone to developing slight kleptomaniacal tendencies, long fingers, and in some cases fingers without nails. Their teeth may change shape and their stomachs change, both in response to whichever diet the orthosurgeost prefers.
  1. Lychery
A kind of ritual magic that makes you the temporary channel for a Power, timeless things from outside existence. The exact ritual sets bounds on the Power and guides its actions toward the desired result: healing, transformation of the body, the unleashing of fire, or whatever other effect is desired.
Lyches know how to use preexisting magical patterns easily enough but experimentation is dangerous. The slightest error can give the Power summoned too much free reign or, if the binding is successful, force it to take an undesired action. Accordingly, innovation is very slow.
Another limitation is tied to candles, which are necessary to strengthen the invoked Power— it might be said that a Power is like a hole of a certain shape which supplies nothing of itself but determines the shape of whatever is put through it. Each candle adds to the potency at hand to make the spell 1.05 times greater than before.
Repeated channeling of Powers affects the body, most principally granting longevity. A lych’s mind is not equipped for this, however, and the weight of memory proves an eventual but inevitable strain. Suicide among very old lyches is common, as senility begins to settle in over the course of centuries. On the bright side, however, senility within the context of a conventional lifespan is far rarer, due to the efforts of lyches to ward off the effects of aging wherever they can, for as long as they can.
If you want some quick figures: 15 candles are necessary to make a spell 2.078 times as powerful as with one candle. 33 to reach 5.003x potency, 50 candles gives it a potency of 11.467x, and 93 candles before the potency overtakes the number of candles at a potency of 93.455x. 100 candles gives a potency of 131.501x and 200 gives a potency of 17,292.58x.
  1. Greensinging
In the earliest days of Man, he was taught language. The language that was taught him was the language of the world— of life and death, or connection and destruction, of bonds and the severing thereof— and Man’s teachers were the birds. But Man’s first act was to sever the bonds that were between him and the birds, so that they would hold no power over him, and ever since that time the birds have spoken no word that can be understood.
Or so goes the story of the langua verde, a peculiar tongue consisting of whistles and other sounds in marked similarity to bird song. Greensingers, or Green Men, sing songs of empathy and decay. The songs allow them to feel what others are feeling and transmit the same. Skilled Greensingers can learn how to feel falsely, to give fear when they are calm, or to calm the crowd though they have also been roused to anger. The songs also allow them to accelerate the natural processes of destruction by spying weaknesses, magnifying flaws, weakening strengths, and instilling, nurturing, and hastening all rot.
Your turn: What’s your favorite system of magic, and what do you like so much about it?
R. Donald James Gauvreau works an assortment of odd jobs, most involving batteries. He has recently finished a guide to comparative mythology for worldbuilders, available herefor free. He also maintains a blog at White Marble Block, where he regularly posts story ideas and free fiction, and writes The Culture Column, an column with cultures ready for you to drop into your setting. 

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