Magic in Gessa
Hello Nexians, and welcome back for another World of Gessa Sneak Peak.
Magic in Gessa
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Central to any fantasy setting is magic. There have been countless takes and mechanics of magic, some better than others. Here in Gessa, magic is as much of a force as gravity or electromagnetism, except it is one that seems to be heavily connected to life and the will of mortal beings. It seems to gather around life, clinging to it, responding to it. But in doing so it also warps it.
It will mold flesh, mutate it, giving things strange powers out of base desires of the environment around it. Depending on the culture and the individual, magic is either a dangerous curse, a blight on the land, or it is a blessing, evidence the world around us responds to us. People may categorize and discriminate on types of magic, but in reality, it is really not qualitatively different beyond how a practitioner obtains the magical energy to work spells.
Magic wasn't always in Gessa. It's origin is shrouded in myth, but the Cataclysm regardless marks when magic came pouring into the world, turning a mundane one into a magical one. It seeped into Gessa, collecting in pockets. There are many different views on how and why the Cataclysm happened. The Astaran Church said it was the Sun, Moon, and the Wanderer's Light. Others say the gates across the Veil of Death were cast open. But in either case, these pockets of magic form and start affecting the world around them. Strange creatures develop. Beings of magic, the spirits, form. Taking shapes from the minds of the Mortals that interact with it (Subjectively, various cultures have different theories on spirits. The dead souls of mortals, beings from beyond the Veil). They take shape as Fey, Demons, Celestials. The creatures unlucky enough to get too close get transformed into Monstrosities and Aberrations. These concentrations of magic are dangerous, but also useful. Over time, cultures have figured out ways to tap into them. Arguably, Druids were the first. They found peaceful, natural places, and communed with the power that lay in the earth or water or whatever magical upwelling they found. They take a small piece. Enough to grant them magic, but not enough to change them too much nor destroy the wellsprings.
Clerics, Paladins, and Warlocks are a little more refined and regimented. They worship (or contract with) beings of magic, or otherwise worship a wellspring of magic. They develop rites and rituals that shape the magic to their faith and beliefs. The Astaran Church does this in communion with their sacred places, holy (magical) artifacts, or gifts from the holiest of spirits - angels. They might claim objective magic as Light from the Sun or Moon, but the reality is far more nuanced. Unlike other settings, divine magic isn't an objective gift from a god. It is shaped by faith, and losing your faith might cause you to lose your ability to channel magic in that way (and going against your faith could cause your religion to take it away), it isn't a direct channel to your god. In Gessa, there are countless faiths, just like in our world. And like our world, religion in Gessa is controversial and ultimately impossible to tell who, objectively, is correct, if any of them are. That said, they undoubtedly hold power with their faith and the sources of magic they choose to maintain and worship and gift to their followers.
Sorcerers are born or cursed by it. They are directly exposed either in the womb, through bloodline, or through direct, unprotected contact with a concentration of magic. Because they are linked to bloodline, however, some cultures like the Astaran Empire have decided that some of these bloodlines are divine, gifted, not cursed, with magic. 12 major bloodlines run through each of the 12 kingdoms of the Astaran Empire, each connected to a star sign and millenia of lore and legend surrounding the heroes and kings of the sorcerers that bore that power. These bloodlines are jealously guarded, the nobility carefully crafting marriages between and within houses to keep the magic that dwells in their blood alive and powerful, with mixed success.
Wizards are the most complicated. They have to cobble together scraps of magic. 'Divine' magic is gatekept by religions and holy orders and is jealously guarded. Becoming a Sorcerer is dangerous as you either have to be lucky enough to be born with it or exposed just enough to transform you, but not enough to kill you. Wizards study the science of this force. They study how it responds to life, where they can get it, how to safely channel it without transforming the body and mind. They cheat and use materials like Aurum (jewels or minerals that have been changed by magic) to store the magic, or snuff the life of magical creatures, or otherwise use whatever small scraps of magic they can find to do what they do. It is a dangerous line to walk, and the more difficult path to obtain the same power as divine users can wield with a prayer or a Sorcerer or Warlock with an errant thought. But it also isn't limited by either the beliefs or the specific source of magic. A Light Cleric can only wield spells that fit its faith, a Draconic Sorcerer takes magic similar to his ancestors and bloodline. But a Wizard, with study, can replicate the magic of others (This is a personal houserule where wizards can scribe anything without Divine keywords or class specific at double the scribing times and cost). They, along with Artificers, study the mechanics of magic and use those mechanics to efficiently use the meager magics that are in them or tapping into smaller sources around them. Neither bound nor cursed by magic, Wizards and Artificers are free from those particular chains surrounding magic.
- Magic has a source for mortal practitioners. Through ritual, blood, contract, exposure, or by tapping into objects with trapped magic power, there must be a power source of some kind to tap into. For Divine casters (Druids, Clerics, Paladins, and sometimes Warlocks) they acquire some sort of seed of magic, housed in themselves or in an object, that they nurture and grow. Sorcerers are born with these seeds of magic, or are exposed to untamed wild magic that transforms them. Bards, Wizards, and Wizard Derivatives use the meager magic in themselves or collect it from scraps magically charged material or channel it from objects of power (Like an orb made from aurum made into a magical battery, or a staff of Soulwood, bursting with magic)
- Nothing has Objective rules to it. A contract may stipulate something, Religions might claim rules and oaths that must be obeyed, but once gifted, it is hard to take away. However, that does not mean that there aren't plenty of subjective ones. Mental rules of magic become very important. Someone only can do something with magic they believe they can. This is not to say there isn't natural law to it, but the natural law mostly doesn't care what mortals think of it. Paladins, Clerics, Druids, Warlocks all might have rules associated with their magic, but it can only be stripped by certain rituals and by the action of other mortals, often those of their own faith.
- Gods are distant, spirits are earthly. No one really knows what lies beyond, but they do mostly agree that magic derives from elsewhere. Gods are said to be on the other side of the Veil. Contact with the other side is limited, and is highly suspect whether it is truly real or not, or just a delusion or hallucination. But spirits do (apparently) cross over through these magical Tears in the Veil, that often serve as the door magic is let into the world through, as well as the formation of extraplanar creatures. But again, the spirits that do so, seem to be reflections of the mortals that interact with it. They confirm their biases and ideas about the universe. However, the only way a mortal reaches the other side is through death and crossing the Veil.
- Magic corrupts. As they develop their magic, practitioners will develop quirks and minor (or major) transformations. Creatures that are exposed to high levels of magic are mutated. The Beast races of Xerac are extreme forms of that, bootstrapped to sentience from their base creatures. Magic seeps into the world of Gessa, changing all of it. Deep earth charged with magic might become an Earth Elemental, creatures charged with magic might become monstrosities like Dire creatures or things like Winter Wolves or Hellhounds, beasts simply under similar bloodlines as humanoid Sorcerers.
Magic in Gessa is to feel a little more grounded and engrained in the world of Gessa rather than being of other planes. It is akin to a corruption, or radiation. It mutates and behaves strangely, but there are underlying physics and rules to it, even if they are rules of mortal minds, prejudices, feelings, and will. Likewise, there is very little that is objective about any religion's understanding of magic. They can and do claim many things about Gessa and what lies beyond this plane, but the reality of the setting is ultimately unknown to mortals. Unlike other settings, there is no objective extraplanar cosmology, no objective knowledge of gods or planes beyond the mortal plane. There are mysteries here similar to our own mysteries that are meant to keep the setting more like ours, where questions like what happens after death or which religions are correct are unknowable.