Home > Setting > Setting: The Four Sources

Setting: The Four Sources

Magic in the Age of Stars is defined as a product of four different power sources – Arcane, Divine, Primal and Psionic, each with their own unique properties and effects. Because they define a lot about how the universe works, here’s a bit of an explanation of what they are and how they interact. All magic draws on different forces inherent to the universe, and can be wielded through different thought processes, with some being more amenable to certain kinds of thinking than others. Different kinds of magic may be inherited from one’s ancestors or learned as a skill, though not everyone is able to wield it effectively. Often non-magic users are able to unconsciously draw on it in order to perform superhuman feats, but they can’t shape it in the way an actual mage can. These aren’t comprehensive descriptions, as so much about the nature of magic is either unknown or involves conflicting schools of thought, but people tend to agree on most of these facts.

Primal

Primal Magic was the first kind of magic discovered on Nasca and is perhaps the oldest in the universe. It flows from the creative aspects of elemental chaos, rewriting the fundamental nature of the universe, and as such is highly concentrated in nebulae and within stars. This connection to the fundamental forces of the universe has earned Primal magic a reputation as “nature magic” because it is at its most potent where nature has been allowed to grow unchecked. Primal wielders tend to be tribal and traditional, acting on instinct more than reason, strengthening their connection to the primal forces through their passion and more animalistic qualities. As such you get barbarians who perform extraordinary feats through bestial rage, and druids who assume the forms of the animals they live in harmony with. Of course, for different races “getting in touch with nature” means different things, but the broad strokes are similar for most sentient creatures.

Divine

Divine magic is the magic of the Gods, or to be more precise the magic of faith. It flows from widely held ideas strong convictions, and is generally wielded in the service of great causes or steadfast ideologies. As a magic of order it works to impose belief on the universe, reshaping reality to the will of sentient beings. Divine magic does not come from the gods, so much as the Gods come from it. Each one represents a massive concentration of belief, which is what gives them their powers, while their personality comes from a mass cultural personification of the idea. For example, Bahamut originated as a powerful metallic dragon who stood for justice and protection, and in death he became synonymous with it, giving a life and a persona to the concepts as the new god of Justice.

Primal magic is often at odds with Divine magic, and the two tend to aggressively counteract one another. A sufficiently powerful Primal power source such as the one beneath Ferrosa has the power to alter the nature of life and death, allowing for the physical manifestation of souls under certain conditions, even if that soul would not normally manifest*. The gods meanwhile can overpower the magic of nature, resurrecting the dead or performing miracles. Because of this Primal/Divine paradox mages tend to have great power over the fabric of the universe, but their constant spiritual imbalance can result in the effects of their spells being corrupted, sacrificing specific effects of one source with the effects of another.So smiting someone with a lightning bolt might cauterize their wounds or even heal them unintentionally.

*Souls manifesting through primal magic are called spirits and tend to do so because of a powerful emotion or significant event. Souls manifesting through divine magic are ghosts and tend to stick around as a result of unfinished business or to aid a cause they served in life. Psionics can’t cause a soul to manifest but a sufficiently powerful psionicist might leave a psychic imprint on an area, which will resemble their consciousness, but isn’t actually them. Arcane magic doesn’t manifest souls, but necromancy can be applied to an already manifesting soul for fun, profit and undying horror.

Arcane

Arcane Magic involves harnessing raw chaotic power to break ordinary physical laws, and as such can be highly destructive. It seeps through the universe via leylines – magical hotspots that occur through as-of-yet unknown means. Sorcerers, dragons and demons favour this kind of magic because it’s very direct and highly flexible. On the flipside, statistical analysis and complex mathematical operations can be employed to use arcane magic in highly ordered, structured ways. Reducing the uncertainty of certain events happening to a statistically negligible amount is how wizards and artificers operate.

Arcane magic reacts with primal magic by resonating and amplifying one another – Arcane/Primal Paradox Mages can amplify primal spells with arcane power, and imbue arcane spells with unpredictable primal effects, whether intentionally or otherwise. As such, these kinds of mages rarely occur naturally, and often destroy themselves and others with their untamed magical energy before they can fully gain control of their abilities. A notable exception is when one becomes a paradox warlock, in which case the effects of the interaction are much easier to control with two entities managing them.

Divine Magic reacts with Arcane as a lens does with light – focusing or shaping it, changing specific properties to reflect the mage’s beliefs. An Arcane/Divine Paradox mage manifest their spells differently to their peers – a fireball may be cast as a cleansing holy flame for example. Meanwhile a divine ward against physical harm may prevent other magic from affecting the target instead. These effects make arcane/divine paradox mages highly versatile within their chosen fields.

Psionic

Psionic magic is the power of the rational mind created and centered around conscious thought processes. Where Divine magic is concerned with what people believe, Psionic magic is about how they believe it. Whether practicioners being monks seeking to free their minds of earthly distractions to achieve transcendence, or psions using their understanding of physics or psychology to apply telekinetic forces or mental suggestions respectively. This is why psionic knowledge is often considered less important to the skill than the process of attaining the knowledge in the first place. Being able to comprehend the mechanics or influences behind a subject is what grants a psionicist their power, which is why psions tend to gravitate towards scientific understanding and study.

Psionic power tends to be highly opposed to the primal way of thinking, or to be more precise the lack thereof. Where Primal power requires emotion and instinct, psionic power favours logic and rationality. Because of this, Psionic/Primal Paradox mages must reconcile their conscious thought with their unconscious instinct, learning the triggers and connections of their own minds and how even the most logical thought derives from innate primal instinct. Doing this grants a strange kind of focus, turning the manifestations of their abilities from organic shapes to crystalline lattices, making them much harder to dispel or interrupt. It is conjectured that shardminds evolved in such a state, becoming highly intelligent in an environment of extreme primal magic. Much like a diamond is forged through heat and pressure, the shardminds became the way they are today.

Arcane magic tends to be similarly opposed to Psionics, with the chaotic forces of arcana rendered static by psionics. The spontaneous manifestations of Arcane magic defy causal reasoning, so a Psionic/Arcane paradox mage will often cancel out their own abilities. This means the most common paradox mages are some variants of Wizard, using their understanding of arcane theory, rituals and spellcraft to satisfy the requirements of psionic reasoning.  This expertise tends to be highly rewarding however as Arcane/Psionic mages are masters of their craft, shaping new spells from raw effects and manifesting psionic enchantments that confound the mind or heighten the senses. The highest concentrations of such mages are found within the Faraday Corps, which is famous for its use of mental magic in ways that for centuries only wizards could dream of.

Mastering both Psionic and Divine magic requires not only strong convictions but rational philosophy and reasoned logic backing them up. Given the right cause, this kind of mage can have their faith bolstered by logic and their curiosity satisfied by a well explored worldview. This strengthens both aspects of a Psionic/Divine mage’s spellcraft and is considered by monks and clerics alike to be a state of enlightenment, compared to understanding the fundamental nature and meaning of the universe. The level they describe however is rarely achievable, but it is something aspired to by many, even those who cannot wield both powers. Nonetheless, a Psionic/Divine paradox mage is a force to be reckoned with.

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Categories: Setting
  1. aldowyn
    November 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Hmm. It might be cool to somehow become a paradox mage. Did you have that in mind with those in depth descriptions of each combination?

    • November 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      I had “there might come a time when you guys will have to see what they can do” in mind, so yeah, there are some ideas for mechanics there, but it’s really just me fleshing out 4th Edition’s awkward hybrid class system. As it stands you just merge two classes and there’s no synergy between skills whatsoever – adding rogue to fighter won’t let you roll sneak attack bonuses on fighter skills. Either way it’s something that conveniently, none of you were so I could take some liberties for flavour reasons.

      I’m thinking the mechanic would involve making a skill or attack roll with one power type and then trying to beat it with another power type for a small bonus. If you equal it (or get within the escalation die value perhaps) you get a slightly bigger bonus for resonance.

      • November 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm

        This is interesting because Des’ Crias is a Warden/multiclass-Monk, which basically boils down to Primal/Psionic.

        So I guess maybe he could beat all of us bare-handed.

        • November 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

          That’s true. Does he actually get psionics from it or just flurry of blows? Punching fast doesn’t necessarily make you psychic

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