Sapient Species of the World

Humanity is undisputedly the most advanced sapient species in the world, both technologically and magically speaking. This is partially because humanity has been enthusiastically stealing and/or copying magic and secrets of other species. The other likely reason is the fact that humans, in addition to being far more unified than other sapients, are also more willing to trade with each other than the rest of the sapients of the world, who are largely tribal and insular. For all their infighting and wars, humanity is eerily well coordinated by other species’ standards.

Still, there are some sapient species that have managed to hold their own in the steadily human-dominated world. This article will tackle the most successful ones – the ones that are not just surviving, but have even managed to thrive in the face of human expansion. In some cases, it was precisely human expansion that empowered them, either by exposing them to novel magics and technologies, or by eliminating their traditional competition.

Lizardmen:

The largest continent in the world is a serpentine landmass closely hugging the equator. There are very few humans here – treasure hunters, adventurers and researchers occasionally launch expeditions to explore the area, but there are no permanent human settlements. The many unfamiliar and aggressive magical creatures that make their home in the jungles are one of the reasons why, but there is also the issue that the continent already has a dominant sapient species.

The lizardmen are the dominant force on Blantyrre. Their city-states and small kingdoms dot the entire continent, and though they quarrel often, they have a sufficiently unified identity that they cooperate against common threats. They were a stone age culture before human ships started trading with them, but even then they built great, walled cities and used surprisingly good tools made out of obsidian and some more obscure magical materials. With the coming of the humans, they have learned the secrets of metal working and even some of the human magics, allowing them to expand out of their traditional areas. Previously, the lizardmen lived almost exclusively along the coasts and rivers of Blantyrre, but now they push ever further into the continent’s interior with every passing day. The coastal communities are still the most advanced and powerful ones, however, due to easiest access to human traders.

By human standards, the lizardmen are still awfully primitive. They have no firearms or advanced machines of their own making, and their native magics are weaker than human ones and restricted to their priestly caste. Nonetheless, the few times that humans have launched attacks on their city-states, the lizardmen have inflicted crushing defeats on the attacking forces. Their greater knowledge of terrain, the sheer number of warriors they can muster in response to aggression and the tendency of their city-states to band together when faced with outside attacks have convinced humans that the only way to deal with lizardmen is through trade and diplomacy.

Lizardmen are perceived to be the only civilized species beside humans, which affords them a certain amount of respect and interest, but they are still a lesser species as far as most humans are concerned.

Lizardmen are just as intelligent as humans and stronger than them, but they tolerate the cold poorly and require moisture to keep their scales healthy, so they are far more limited about where they can live and form permanent settlements. Fortunately for the lizardmen, ‘warm and wet’ describes just about every part of Blantyrre. They are proficient swimmers and divers, but poor runners by human standards.

Socially, lizardmen are usually led by warrior societies (whose leader is also the king/chieftain of the polity), but the priesthood is a powerful and influential force. The two often butt heads over which course a polity should take. The warrior societies are usually more liberal and outward-focused, but warlike. The priesthood is more insular and traditionalist, but more inclined to solve problems with diplomacy.

In addition to performing religious ceremonies, members of the priesthood are also practitioners of traditional lizardman magic, which only they are permitted to practice. Some lizardmen have begun to adapt human magic for their own use, claiming that its human origin makes it exempt from such restrictions, which puts them at odds with the priesthood that wants to maintain a monopoly on magic use and considers human magic heretical.

Lizardmen travelers are rare outside Blantyrre, but not unheard of. The main problem is that most human polities have legal systems designed exclusively around humans, since wider definitions weren’t necessary at the time of their making. Lizardmen visitors therefore tend to be in a bit of a legal vacuum as far as law enforcement is concerned. They’re unlikely to be attacked on sight, but they will attract attention wherever they go.

The lifespan of a lizardman is roughly comparable to that of a human.

Aranea:

Aranea are a species of large, sapient jumping spiders. All aranea possess innate telepathic powers, which they use as their primary method of communication and self-defense. They are native to the continent of Altazia, where they tend to make home in the shallower sections of the Dungeon next to human communities. They naturally congregate into small tribes (called webs) that maintain influence over a particular territory, and usually exist in a form of symbiosis with the local human communities. They rarely make their presence known to the humans at large, however, preferring instead to interact with a select few individuals and use their mental powers to make sure their trust is not misplaced. If their existence is exposed and their webs threatened, the aranea simply pack up and leave for greener pastures.

Aranea were originally a species that struggled to survive, being relatively weak in body and lacking tool-making capabilities that most sapient species rely on to thrive. Their mental abilities, though impressive, were often insufficient against the world’s various monstrous denizens. Worse, their habit of making their homes in the shallower portions of the Dungeon often caused them to clash with the local species of underground humans – the morlocks.

When the Ikosians started arriving on Altazia, they unintentionally helped the aranea by shattering morlock civilizations, getting rid of their main competitor. Since the Ikosians didn’t live underground and ventured into the Dungeon only in a limited fashion, the shallow Dungeon was effectively given over to the aranea, who enthusiastically staked out their claim. The Ikosians then proceeded to slowly push back and eradicate the most dangerous magical monsters out of their territory, which also helped aranea, who even helped the Ikosians sometimes by alerting humans to hidden monster nests and other common threats. Finally, the Ikosians also brought with them their particular brand of magic, which was both very powerful and versatile… and surprisingly easy to adjust to aranean purposes.

The aranean web beneath Cyoria was the first web to translate human magics into something suitable for an aranea, and they took advantage of their newfound power to rapidly expand throughout the continent, assimilating, coopting and eradicating the less magical webs. Though the resulting new webs were still independent, their common origin resulted in them all sharing a relatively similar identity, which has been a major boon for the aranean species.

Aranea range from 40-50 cm in length, about the size of an adult human’s torso. Appropriately for what is essentially a larger jumping spider, they possess impressive jumping ability and great reflexes. Also like regular jumping spiders, they possess two large, forward-facing, pitch-black eyes that give them excellent vision. This is supported by three pairs of smaller eyes that give them fuzzier 360 degrees vision. An ability to sense vibrations through their feet also plays a large role in their perception of the world, as does their ability to ‘taste’ things they are touching with their leg hairs. Most aranea are black in coloration, but brown hues and various patterns are not unheard of, and some have even lost all pigmentation and become white.

Aranea exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism. Males are much smaller than females, and subsapient. Contrary to what one may think, this does not cause the aranea to look down on males from other species. That said, most aranea are deeply prejudiced against non-psychic individuals, viewing them as fundamentally crippled and thus looking down on them as “flickerminds”.

Aranea grow up to sexual maturity in only two years, but they are not considered proper adults until they are six years old or so. They can live up to 45 years under ideal conditions.

Sulrothum:

The Cataclysm that turned northern Miasina into the Xlotic Desert did more than just devastate the Ikosian civilization through climactic changes. The desertification of the environment also allowed many magical creatures that thrived in the desert to extend their habitat northwards. One of those species was a type of giant, flying insects that the Ikosians named Sulrothum – which loosely translates into ‘devil wasp’.

Sulrothum are a species of large (3m long) intelligent insects, pitch black in color and vaguely resembling long-limbed, emaciated wasps. Despite their thin builds, they are incredibly strong and durable, far more than their build would suggest. They have no stingers, poisonous or otherwise, their wasp-like appearance notwithstanding. They can raise themselves into a bipedal position when standing still, allowing them to use their four forward limbs as arms, but they cannot walk in a human manner and must drop to a horizontal position and use all six of their limbs if they want to walk somewhere. Walking is not their preferred form of movement, however, as their forward limbs are more suited as arms than legs – instead they prefer to fly, using the four dragonfly-like wings growing out of their back. They can fly quite fast, but their endurance and maneuverability is passable at best.

Sulrothum are a desert species, and originate from the dry, rocky wastelands of the Red Valley in central Miasina. There, they dug their settlements into the walls of the many cliffs and rocky outcroppings scattered around the region. The desertification of Xlotic allowed them to spread far to the north, and their shocking strength and resilience, coupled with the considerable mobility advantage that came from them being all fliers, allowed them to push out existing natives and establish their own territories. This even included human communities, who were by then deeply hurting from climactic shift and the frequent civil wars that accompanied it.

The Sulrothum cannot speak a human tongue, their mouthparts incapable of producing proper sounds to manage it, but they are quite intelligent and some have learned how to understand nearby human languages. Originally a stone-age culture, the Sulrothum have adopted many human technologies, either by studying looted objects or questioning human captives. Things like firearms and complex machines are beyond them, but metal working skills and architecture are getting quite advanced.

Humans look at Sulrothum with great suspicion and distrust, seeing them as dangerous raiders. While they are not inherently aggressive by nature, desert living is harsh, and many Sulrothum communities are desperate or opportunistic enough to attack caravans and communities near their territory. Their great strength and ability to fly means they can strike hard and retreat into their desert strongholds before an effective resistance can be organized. The goal of these raids is to steal rather than kill, but the Sulrothum won’t hesitate to kill anyone who objects too vigorously to such appropriation.

Contrary to common human beliefs, Sulrothum do not eat human captives – eating intelligent prey is completely taboo to Sulthorum sensibilities.

Though largely antagonistic, more peaceful exchanges between humans and Sulrothum do occasionally happen. Sulrothum are perfectly willing to serve as mercenaries in human wars, or guide expeditions deep into the desert while warning them away from non-obvious dangers. Additionally, some Sulrothum tribes mine precious metals or cultivate rare plants, and will trade these to nearby human merchants.

The Sulrothum resist heat and drought extremely well, but they tend to rest during the hottest part of the day, only leaving their settlements in the evening… mostly to hunt, which is their main method of feeding themselves. They are omnivores, much like humans, but much of their diet is carnivorous in nature – they feed primarily on various animals they catch, but will gladly supplement those with any edible plants they discover in their territory. Tribes that live in areas that border with more verdant regions eat plant matter more regularly, and coastal tribes are often fond of fishing. In any case, their large size and poor environment mean that they have trouble supporting large communities, and tend to be few in number.

Socially, the Sulrothum lifestyle revolves around religion. They have an extremely developed pantheon of gods and goddesses, the most important of which is their goddess of the sun, who is the head of their pantheon and the patron of their species. According to their creation stories, they were not actually created by the gods, but are instead the children of angels who serve the gods as their enforcers and messengers. The Sun Goddess, upon witnessing their birth, took them under her wing and decreed them to under her authority and protection as well, just as the angels they descend from. Accordingly, Sulrothum consider themselves celestial agents and place great importance on living up to their duties and not breaking any of their religious taboos.

Sulrothum are very superstitious and see divine influence everywhere, always searching for omens and prophecies. They make heavy use of hallucinogenic drugs made from certain desert plants during their religion ceremonies, believing the resulting visions to carry great meaning and messages from the gods. They consider fire to be sacred, due to its perceived link to the sun, and will cremate their dead if possible.

Sulrothum are not a hive species, despite their wasp-like appearance. They do not have the centralized queen-drone structure that most colonial insects use, and are instead composed out of numerous male-female couples that work together to form a single colony. Females can choose whether or not to become pregnant, and in normal circumstances only the high-ranking ones are allowed to do so on a regular basis: resources are usually insufficient to allow every couple to raise their children to adulthood. Breeding restrictions are also the main reason for breakaway groups leaving to find new territories – if the lower-ranked couples feel they are being unjustly restricted (there is plenty of resources, but they are still not permitted to have children), they have a tendency to break off from the main colony and seek out a new place for themselves. The young start as maggot-like and non-sapient, but metamorphose into miniature, flightless versions of the adults within a matter of months. These ‘youths’ are sapient and will spent anywhere from six to eight years learning and performing various menial chores in the colony.

A healthy Sulrothum individual can live up to 65 years, but most die sooner than that to disease, warfare and accidents.

Dragons:

Few magical creatures have inspired more fear, or more admiration, than the mighty dragons. Large, fantastically durable, magically resistant, armed with powerful innate magic, flight-capable and smarter than humans on average… the dragons possess many advantages over humanity. Even the spread of firearms and the gradual increase in magical sophistication among human mages have only chipped those advantages slightly rather than rendered them irrelevant. Despite their constant clashes with human communities and even the occasional campaign to wipe out their nesting grounds, the dragons for the most part continue to stubbornly resist human encroachment into their territories.

Dragons are very large magical creatures, measuring up to 8 meters in length in their adult form. They are fast and enduring flyers, despite their size and weight. Although their flight is clearly magical in nature, they do need their wings to fly, and damaging them will ground the dragon until they heal. Though shockingly durable, and thus hard to wound or put down for good, dragons do not possess supernatural regeneration and any wounds they suffer in battle will linger with them for a long time. Lost limbs will likewise not grow back, and it is possible for a dragon to end up permanently crippled if a fight goes poorly for them.

All of this means that dragons, contrary to their fierce reputations, dislike getting into even fights. When faced with something they think can actually hurt them, dragons prefer to launch surprise attacks, making use of their flight and innate magic to stay out of range of attackers. The advent of firearms has complicated this tactic somewhat, but adult dragons are capable and canny enough to lure entire army groups into traps, drop huge boulders from huge heights on top of static targets and make use of their superior senses to launch raids during night hours, heavy rains, dust storms and other times of reduced visibility.

Dragons are highly magical creatures, and thus need highly magical areas to lair in. Fortunately for dragons, their powerful flight and huge mana reserves allow them to venture far from these places, which means this restriction limits them far less than most other highly magical creatures. They typically spend days or weeks touring their territories, periodically returning to their lairs to rest and recharge. If a dragon loses its lair, and cannot find a suitable replacement, it will either die of magical starvation or be forced to spend a lot of its time in vulnerable sleep in some less magical location. Since a dragon’s lair is so critical for their survival, and since highly magical locations are in great demand by just about everyone, dragons are fiercely territorial creatures, always ready to defend their claims against challengers – be they human, monster or a fellow dragon.

Dragons mature very slowly, taking more than a hundred years to reach full size and maturity, though they are technically capable of breeding while still in their 40s. Females produce 4-6 eggs with each pregnancy, and can get pregnant every four years or so. Parenting is done primarily by the female in most cases, though the father often helps by bringing her food and helping her defend her territory while she’s busy with their children. Despite their durability and impressive capabilities, most dragons will never reach adulthood, as their mothers have a tendency to kick them out of the nest as soon as they can fly and many things find young dragons to be a tempting prize. If they can actually reach full maturity, however, there is little than can truly threaten a dragon. Even if they encounter something that is beyond their means to defeat, they can usually retreat and live to tell the tale.

Dragons don’t appear to grow weaker with age, and several have been confirmed to be more than a thousand years old.

Dragons possess their own brand of structured magic, which has never been successfully copied by human mages. Quite simply, the issue is that dragons possess far bigger mana reserves than humans, and the sheer amount of energies involved in dragon spellcasting is virtually impossible for human spellcasters to match. Not every dragon is proficient in this form of magic, however – most don’t have the talent or patience for it, and instead simply rely on their innate magical abilities.

Probably the most serious weakness of the species is that they are highly solitary creatures. Although they do occasionally congregate into larger groups, this is usually induced by outside pressure and these groupings fall apart quickly without external threats to keep them together. Young dragons, especially siblings, will often form small bands and stick together for a while, but these tend to fall apart as they age, individual members gradually leaving to set up their own domains. There have been several known attempts by powerful dragons to start a dragon civilization, but all have ended in failure. Nonetheless, as humanity continues to advance and pushes into the wild corners of the world ever more insistently, these attempts are getting more common, and last longer and longer each time before they fail…

95 thoughts on “Sapient Species of the World

  1. I’m curious about the dragons. Are they highly territorial because they need a certain amount of magic, and sharing would intrude on that, or are they just innately possessive?

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    • Both. They’re innately possessive because it is an adaptive trait for them (few places are so abundant in magic that they can afford to share them) and the fact that their possessiveness is usually justified by real-life circumstances reinforces their inborn tendencies. It’s possible for individual dragons to overcome this, but few see reason to.

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      • Here’s an idea: you mentioned on Patreon that dragons have avoided living in the Hole simply because there’s too much competition. However, in theory, a dragon who was so inclined could probably make a deal with the humans of Cyoria, along the lines of “you help me deal with competitors and leave me alone, I eat some of the local wildlife.”

        Or even one of the previously-mentioned groups of young dragons. There would surely be enough mana for them all, and probably plenty of prey too in the Dungeon. Do they actively mistrust humans, or just prefer their own company?

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      • An individual dragon could totally make such a deal, yes. The humans would likely agree to it too, if they are approached correctly. Such a setup would naturally favor the humans, though, since the Hole ultimately belongs to them. Besides, a dragon living in such a densely populated area would never really be left alone, or not completely anyway. As such, no dragon would really like that idea. Additionally, few dragons know how to approach humans correctly.

        You’re right that large numbers of young dragons could easily exist around the Hole. They would be terrified to approach a powerful human community like that, though. And for good reason! Dragons a valuable, and young ones are relatively easy targets. It’s an open question whether the humans would be even willing to negotiate when they’re in such a clear position of strength. Especially since the dragons know that, if it was them controlling the Hole, they would have never humored a group of human refugees coming to them with such a proposal – why should they expect such courtesy from others when they aren’t willing to extend such to others themselves?

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      • So, active mistrust then. Understandable; even if the city government agreed, individual hunters could easily cause trouble.

        You did mention, though, that there are repeated attempts to form a dragon civilisation. And being vulnerable, young dragons have more to gain from an alliance, somewhat like the aranea (which is why they band together with other dragons). If they thought that, on balance, their odds of survival in the Hole looked pretty good compared to surviving in the wild (where “most dragons will never reach adulthood”)…maybe.

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      • Hmm. It also occurs to me that an ambitious mother dragon might seek to make a deal with humans on behalf of her children, seeking to have all of them grow up safely (which, you said, doesn’t normally happen in the wild), and threatening mayhem on Cyoria if they are harmed…

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      • A regular dragon? No. A dragon mage? Maybe, if they felt the need to dedicate a year or more to such a task (despite clearly already having a lair, else they couldn’t stay active for that long). A group of dragon mages? Easily, but good luck getting such a group together – getting more than two of them (a master and the apprentice) to work together on such a project would be a miracle.

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    • Well, how maternal/paternal are dragons? Any chance that they’d make a mana well as a lair for their child(ren)? For a project like that, a year is really not so long. And dragon mages are apparently driven to spread their art, overcoming their solitary nature, so it would actually make a lot of sense to raise a young dragon in a lair constructed with magic.

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      • An interesting idea. I did intend for dragons to get increasingly organized as times goes by (and humans become an even bigger threat to their territory and lives) and this could be a nice way to kickstart a social revolution of sorts.

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      • Side bonus: if it turns out to be a good way of raising a baby dragon, then other parents may take note, thus allowing the dragon mage(s) more opportunities to spread the gospel of structured magic :).

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      • I’m all for dragons mode organised and effective. Dragons are awesome :).

        How do dragons approach each other peacefully? Let’s say that one wants to become Oganj’s apprentice. Is there a draconic flag of truce?

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      • I didn’t really think about it. I’m guessing it’s something like approaching the territory of the dragon you want to negotiate with, stopping just before entering the territory proper and prominently displaying a gift of some sort while shouting at the top of your voice: “Oi! [Dragon Name], I brought you a bribe present! How about we had a friendly chat, eh?”

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      • Yes, stopping just outside their territory makes sense. Except dragons can fly a long way, so presumably their territories can be pretty big (I’m guessing they protect more than just the entrance to their lair; they probably wouldn’t welcome anything coming within miles of it), so the occupant probably wouldn’t realise you were there for a while.

        Although in the case of a dragon mage, I guess they probably have some form of alarm spells. And non-mages have less reason for anyone to contact them. Still, they form mating pairs somehow.

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      • As far as mating pairs go, I’m pretty sure they could probably tell from a distance if an approaching lady dragon is at the right point of the four year cycle. Most animals with a limited breeding window have some way of displaying when thy’re ready, and dragons are usually shown to have excellent senses after all. Maybe they emit different pheromones, or light up in the UV spectrum, or something.

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  2. Regarding dragons and humans: given that we’ve seen human mages draw on other sources to supplement their own reserves, is there really a hard limit on humans not being able to cast dragon magic?

    For example, if Sudomir drew on his well of souls, he’d have an enormous amount of mana– that wouldn’t be enough to cast dragon magic?

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    • No. Those other sources are only useful for powering wards and magical items. If Sudomir drew on his well of souls for actual spellcasting, he would poison himself or even explode (depending on how reckless he was being). Outside sources of mana can allow a mage to replenish their personal mana reserves faster than usual, but that still puts a cap on the amount of mana a mage can use at once. Dragon magic uses more mana for individual spells than most human spellcasters can spare, even if they put everything they have into it.

      Edit: Ugh. I realize only later that I messed this answer up. Since the well of souls doesn’t provide ambient mana, Sudomir wouldn’t poison himself. None the less, the core of the answer was correct – the mana is only useful for wards and magical items, any maybe a lengthy ritual if Sudomir wanted one, but wouldn’t be useful for spellcasting. Other people’s mana is too hard to shape for regular magic.

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      • > maybe a lengthy ritual

        What about cases where it’s acceptable to take a long time? Let’s say, if you were willing to take a full day for a ritual, could you use the soul well to power an intercontinental teleport?

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      • If it’s acceptable to take a lot of time casting things, then the soul well would be a practical source of mana, yes. I make no statements about whether or not the soul well can power an intercontinental teleport, though.

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      • > I make no statements

        OK

        A more general related question: How easily can a mage devise a ritual to mimic a spell, or vice versa? Is it easier in one direction than the other?

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      • It’s easier to turn a spell into a ritual than the other way around – the point of ritual casting is to make powerful/complicated spells easier. Creating a ritual that simply mimics a spell is quite easy, so long as you know the spell in question already, but most rituals are powered up versions of the spell and that can be very hard, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

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    • They could, yes. Of course, that would require them to think they have something to gain by being able to turn into small, weak, groundbound mammals that need to congregate into huge groups in order to amount to anything in the world. Currently, very few dragons would see any value in assuming human form.

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      • Well, if Dragons can become human shifters, then humans could become Dragon Shifters also…

        How did dragons learn magic initially and how does it still exist if A: Most dragons don’t have the talent/inclination for it and B: dragons are solitary and territorial?

        Because teaching another dragon requires overcoming the solitary nature of both, and the mentor is just making a potential competitor stronger.

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      • Well yes. Becoming a shifter of a sapient creature is very inadvisable, as is becoming a shifter of a magical creature, and dragons are both, but it is possible for human mages to go down that road. Even if you can resist being overcome by the dragon soul sliced onto yours, though, good luck getting your children to stay sane and well adjusted…

        Nobody knows how dragons learned/invented their particular brand of magic initially, least of all dragons themselves. It exists dragon mages actively try to spread it, deliberately overcoming their solitary/competitive natures to do so. Dragon magic effectively comes attached to a belief system that urges practitioners to spread the knowledge of it to other dragons they deem worthy. Not all dragon mages buy into it, and in those cases their branch of the art will probably die out when they die. But most dragon mages will refuse to teach another dragon if they don’t believe the student will eventually continue ‘The Legacy’, and have plenty of time to find a dragon enlightened/deviant enough to meet their criteria.

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  3. This is a question about Shifters.
    What would be the differences between a Dragon-Human shifter, and a Human-Dragon shifter?
    Because I was thinking aside from that you are born as, there would not be a lot of differences mentally.

    And a human would want to become a dragon shifter for the durable dragon body and huge increase in magical reserve.

    And if a Dragon became a human shifter, could it turn into human form so it no longer needs to use mana to maintain its magical body. Allowing it to build it’s reserve in less magical areas easier, and maybe thrive in a less magical area? Because I am assuming a dragon spends mana constantly in dragon form to support its hugely magical dragon body, but with the body not in use that is not the case…

    Has someone tried modifying the shifter spell so the 2nd soul no longer contributes in procreation, so the children are no longer born shifters, or maybe so all children are born with a barrier between souls, that they can be trained to weaken/turn off with soul switches when they are older and better able to handle the impulses?

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    • There would be big differences between the two – shifters aren’t a perfect blend of two forms. The base species is very important, and colors a shifter’s mentality far more than their alternate form. The two types of shifters would find it easier to understand one another than normal dragons and humans would, but there would definitely be a lot of differences.

      Dragons shifter mana conservation: That’s an interesting idea. I actually have no idea if this idea is viable. Never considered the scenario personally.

      There can be no barrier between souls of shifters. Their whole point is to blend the two souls together to allow the host to shift between their base and alternate form at will. They’re too tightly connected to be blocked off. Likewise, the other soul is too closely connected to the base one to be excluded from procreation. Mages that don’t want to pass on such things to their children have to limit themselves to temporary transformation spells instead of going for full-blown shifter transformation rituals.

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      • Great worldbuilding! And since you’re responding to shifter stuff I had two questions for you.

        1) What happens if two different kind of shifter try to have child, let’s say a wolf shifter and a bear shifter. Would it be it.
        A: Impossible for them to conceive.
        B: The child only receive one kind.
        C: It receives both kind.
        D: Some kind of weird mix between the two.
        E: Receives nothing at all.

        Now I understand that even if the child did gets both kind of shifting ability he’d have issues when only having one shifting ability is already hard on the child and that it happening in the first place is a bit unlikely since shifter tribes can be isolationist. Though if it possible I’d assume someone could also perform the shifter ritual again to have two types correct?

        2) Is the specific shifter soul you choose to do the ritual important or is it more about the kind of soul? For example let’s say you pick a wolf, does picking a particularly strong alpha matter to you and your descendants compared to using some random weak wolf that’s the kind as the alpha?

        And how would that work when picking a magical creature that’s especially powerful compared to another of its kind?

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      • 1. C. The child would have two alternate forms, with all the problems that come from that. And yes, you can do the shifter ritual any number of times for potentially endless alternate forms… the only limit is your ability to remain sane as your soul and identity becomes increasingly fragmented.

        2. It matters, yes. Mostly for the shifters who became such through the ritual, though – they are splicing that particular soul to themselves, so it’s a good idea to pick an impressive specimen. Most variations will not be passed onto born shifters, however – their alternate forms are literally other sides of them, and are most heavily affected by their base forms.

        The same is true of magical species, unless it’s some kind of subspecies that is inherently better than the rest of its kind.

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      • Thanks for the reply! I’ll ask a few more things if you don’t mind, though before that I wanted to mention how great a world you’ve made from mostly nothing, your magic system is one of the best I’ve seen, plus it respects the Sanderson’s First Law of Magics which is always a plus as a reader. I’d say the one thing that was shown more was unique creatures with their special magic and unique abilities mages have, like Zorian ming magic and Estin earth control. Anyway back to the discussion.

        Are there successful individuals or even tribes out there with more than one form? As for remaining sane I’d assume taking a long time to come to term with one form before doing the ritual again would be most helpful, taking creatures that aren’t natural ennemies would be an obvious choice too. Also I’m surprised there’s not really a limit, I’d have thought that adding more to the soul would make it harder for it no not ‘collapse upon its own size’, though when you think about it it’s not like the soul would be truly human anymore so its natural limits would change accordingly.

        If their descendants forms are more ‘natural’ does it make it inherently easier for them to use their shifting abilities since the other part of their soul is native to them, magically speaking rather than the ‘having to deal with instincts’ part.

        How would shifting work for Aranea shifters, would the shifters be natural mind mages too and would the males have the mostly useless male form considering the Araneas heavy dimorphism?

        What would happen if you tried to become a shifter using a spirit / elemental?

        Also what mechanics do you use for elementals in your setting? Often I see things like King elemental of fire being at the top for his subset and then there’s different levels beneath him, but I was wondering how your system worked.

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      • No, there is no tribe with more than one form. Individuals like that exist, but they tend not to leave too many viable descendants behind.

        Yeah, waiting before undertaking the ritual again definitely helps a person retain their control and identity. But at some point, they’re still going to get overwhelmed by all the different soul fragments pulling at them in different directions.

        Born shifters find it easier to use their powers than created ones, yes. They also tend to be more inhuman in their thinking.

        Aranea shifters would have to draw upon their alternate forms to gain aranean natural mental magics. They wouldn’t be psychic in their base forms. And yes, the men would get the mostly useless male form.

        Shifters don’t have a body as such, so you couldn’t make yourself a shifter by fusing with a spirit. You could totally fuse with a spirit, mind you, which would get you same of its magical powers as innate abilities. Such a procedure is insanely dangerous, however. Spirits, even subsapient ones, have very intense personalities and are all highly magical. The effects on target’s mentality after such a union would be immense, and there is a high chance the spirit will completely dominate and ‘assimilate’ them.

        Elementals are native spirits. They are largely identical to other spirits, except they have left the spiritual planes in order to settle the material world a long time ago. They have no grand king or all-encompassing hierarchy – each elemental-inhabited region has its own hierarchy and organization, sometimes with an undisputed ruler and sometimes not.

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      • I suppose that born shifter having an easier time using their power is balanced by the original shifter usually choosing an especially powerful specifen of his kind though.

        I find it almost weird that an Aranea shifter wouldn’t be able to use psychic abilities outside of his Aranea form. Would a Dragon shifter not have dragonesque mana capacity when in human form then? I’d wonder where the mana would go when the person shifter from dragon form back to his human one then.

        So a shifter ritual is inherently safer than a fusion with a spirit since you get to be the dominant party, but with a spirit fusion you’d be on more equal footing.

        Also how would becoming a shifter using an immortal creature make you immortal? As in you wouldn’t age past your prime.

        How would someone fused with a fire elemental change physically? And would using fire based magic become extremely easy for them the way someone with a unique ability to manipulate fire (the way Estin can manipulate earth) would?

        On the topic of unique abilities, I’d assume that most of them are things that allow to use a branch of magic extremely in a more natural fashion, be it manipulating earth / ice / fire / lightning / air / water / light / minds / souls /etc, but what other kind of unique abilities exist? Zac probably has one with his insane mana capacity, but is there something like an unique ability to absord far more ambiant mana than would naturally be safe?

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      • They would be able to use psychic abilities outside their Aranea form – they would just have to draw upon their aranean part to do so. One of the major shifter advantages over mages using transformation is that they can take on and drop characteristics of their alternate form in a very flexible manner. It’s just that it wouldn’t be active all the time, it’s what I’m saying.

        A shifter has a single, unified mana pool. So no, dragon shifters would not have a dragonesque mana pool, not even in their dragon form. They would have more mana than normal humans, though, due to dragon’s influence.

        An alternate form is just that. It won’t make you immortal, even if it does not age itself. Spending a lot of time in an ageless form can prolong one’s life, but in the end your human body is still aging normally.

        Fusing with a spirit does not have physical tells. Spirits do not have a body, and don’t know how to manipulate biological tissue. One’s descendants may be affected in minor ways, though. And yes, fusing with a fire elemental would grant instinctive fire based magic.

        There are a lot of unique abilities. I intend to write up a proper article about them at some point…

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      • Ah I see that makes more sense then.

        How much mana do dragons have compard to humans on average if adulthood has been reached for both and how much close to dragon level would becoming a dragon shifter bring you? Cause I assume it’d have to be quite substantial to be able to maintain dragonform with its intense mana needs. Unless the form mana requirement can be fulfilled with ambient mana regardless of how much personal mana you have.

        Does the soul have a limit on the number of unique it can posses or are the parts that deal with each specific thing replaced by the part of the soul that make someone possess an unique ability. For example would Estin be able to gain an additional elemental control ability if the right soul ritual was done on him and would he be able to gain more than that without it being problematic for his magic (assuming the ritual was done properly and his soul didn’t get damaged).

        Yeah a worldbuilding article on special abilities would be interesting, so would a ‘monster lexicon’ IMO.

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      • I don’t have any hard numbers to give you in regards to this. Dragons have ‘a lot more mana’ than humans – feel free to guess what that means! Likewise for the effect of being a dragon shifter on one’s mana reserves.

        There is sort of a limit, in the sense that most unique abilities require mana to function, even when the user is not actively using them. Meaning that adding magical abilities gradually robs a mage of their mana reserves. This is especially true of abilities that were spliced onto the target instead of being born ones.

        As for the Estin example – no. Estin could not gain an additional elemental affinity. His magic is already aligned to one type of magic, and it can’t be aligned to another type simultaneously.

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      • That’s an interesting take on elemental affinity generally most stories where you’re free to use different elemetent also don’t place a limit on how high you can each elemental affinity. Would Zorian learning Alanic specialized fire magic make it harder for him to learn another specialized element?

        What would happen if Estin was to fuse with a fire spirit or if someone who had fused with a ice spirit fused with a lightning spirit?

        By the way is abosorbing too much ambient mana negative for the body, mind or soul? Or perhaps a combination between 2-3 of them.

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      • No, why would it make it harder? Zorian learning that would just mean he invested time to become really skilled at one type of magic. He can do that as many times he wishes, for every type of magic theoretically. It will actually be easier as time goes by, since his general shaping skills are bound to grow as he does that.

        Bad things. Fire spirit’s nature would clash violently with his own bloodline. It’s hard to say what would be the end result, both the likeliest ones are that Estin rejects the fire spirit or is consumed by it. In the first case he keeps his earth affinity, in the second he becomes fire aligned (and effectively dies).

        Absolutely. Absorbing ambient mana too fast to assimilate it into your personal mana reserves leads to poisoning and insanity. It can kill quite easily. Ambient mana is only good for boosting mana replenishing rate and to power wards and magic items.

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      • I figured it might make it harder because he would be raising his affinity with a certain element so to speak. Anyway we probably see natural abilities a bit differently which is why I didn’t find it clear and still kind of don’t really, the way I see a natural elemental affinity like the kind Estin has is a unique pattern in his soul that allows him to learn earth based spells way faster and is just generally more efficient with them, with it also making using unstructured magic related to it far easier. So Zorian going in deph with a specific element would be like shaping his soul the right way to have similar abilities to someone with a natural elemental affinity without the whole ‘learning fast’ part.

        Anyway good to know that learning more than one element in deph isn’t a problem, personally I’m hoping to see Zorian delve deeper elementalism after he’s bought his mana shaping and sensing skills to a high level obviously (since leveling the skills that allows to learn other skills faster is kind of a no brainer).

        So certain spirits are impossible to mix then, well maybe a very proefficient soul mage could manage to cobble two different types together, but it’d be quite the exploit.

        Ah maybe I wasn’t very clear, I meant what is the poisoning exactly. Is the madness caused by some kind of brain damage? What would happen to Zorian if he repeatdely kept doing it restart after restart, would the effects be lessened due to his body resetting or is the cause of the poisoning more related to the soul or the mind.

        I’m kind of confused why certain magical abilities would take up a part of your mana to maintain especially the kind that make some magics more efficient. For an ability that’s always active I’d understand, but for things that only activate on certain conditions it seems a bit strange.

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      • Mana poisoning is physical. So yes, the madness is basically brain damage. As to what would happen if Zorian started abusing it all the time – the effects would indeed be lessened by his body resetting, but not eliminated. Eventually the madness would start to linger across restarts.

        For the same reason magical creatures need to consume ambient mana just to survive and warding schemes require a power source even when they are dormant – magical abilities require mana just to exist. And then more mana to perform their function effectively on top of that. Innate magical abilities basically turn a mage into a magical creature.

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      • Then someone like Zorian would be uniquely suited to learn how to use ambient in a non damaging way if that’s even possible. To reduce the damage he has his mind magic and by doing it toward the very end of the loop the effects on his mind from working on a damaged brain would be greatly reduced anyway, normally no one would be foolish to try with the whole permanent damage thing, but with his current position it could be a great boon. Similarly checking where the hole in Cyoria could make for an interesting adventure with the risk of permanent death removed.

        If Zorian were to gain soul sight, would the efforts he made to gain personal soul sight be ‘wasted’ in a manner of speaking? Cause I assume that gaining soul sight instanstly gives you the personal kind as well or the very least makes it a lot easier to learn.

        There was a mention that blood magic was a quick way to power as long as you had sacrifices, but beside mentionning being able to steal special abilities you didn’t really explain what kind of power one would gain, would it be something like using your sacrifices life force to fuel powerful magic or make very powerful artifacts? I’d assume Zorian would dabble in it at some point just to see what’s it’s about, though him not becoming proefficient in soul magic in general would be somehow surprising.

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      • No, getting soul sight would not make Zorian’s work wasted. Yes, soul sight would make it far easier to achieve what Zorian did, but it does not give that sort of expertise by itself.

        I’ll refrain from explaining blood magic for now, due to plot reasons.

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      • > Dragons shifter mana conservation…I actually have no idea if this idea is viable.

        It would be a bit like the two-tiered warding scheme that Gurey the merchant had in his back room. Presumably a human who became a dragon shifter would have to pay the mana cost of maintaining a dragon form, but not in human form, so I’d think it also works the other way.

        The bigger issues, I would think, would revolve around the mental/social aspects of it. Would you want to spend an extended period of time living underground as an earthworm? It might be very practical, living on dirt and hiding from most predators, but few humans would like it. Likewise dragons wouldn’t be keen to live as humans.

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      • > Mana poisoning is physical. So yes, the madness is basically brain damage.
        Does that mean that human mages who no longer have a body/brain to be damaged, such as a lich, could use mana environment without risk of becoming insane? Or was there still some risk?

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      • Quoting the last paragraph of the post “Basics of Magic – Mana”:

        “Higher order undead, such as liches and vampires, do not have living bodies but are capable of spellcasting nonetheless. At first glance, it may seem that they would be able to use ambient mana a lot more freely as a result. To an extent, this is true – they certainly won’t be incapacitated by sickness in the aftermath of such use. However, in order to retain their sapience, such undead need to possess a sort of magical brain to think with… and that brain is every bit as vulnerable to insanity as biological ones. Undead can’t get sick, but that just means they can get insane without being physically crippled – most people, even undead people, agree this is not a good thing.”

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    • One possible difference between human-dragon vs dragon-human shifters is, Which species is likely to come after you for revenge?

      Despite being solitary and territorial, I have to think that dragons would be unhappy about a human butchering another dragon and splicing their souls together. It sets a bad precedent, for one thing.

      Human societies might be less likely to retaliate against a dragon that took on a human form, simply because it would probably cost many lives to attack it, and the dragon won’t need to do it again (and there aren’t a whole lot of other dragons to set a precedent to anyway). Still, such a shifter would be wise to avoid having its human form identified.

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  4. Some interesting things here…

    Ok, I may have been making an assumption here. What exactly IS the structure of a Shifter’s soul, and is there a large metaphysical between a MADE Shifter’s soul, and a BORN Shifter’s soul? Because I was thinking a (normal) Shifter had Two separate types of souls that were highly bound together (like our two lobes of the brain) so a human-wolf shifter would have a human soul tightly bound to a wolf soul. (The binding part in known shifters being Primordial essence)

    And sort changed the body it was using switching by varying the parts of the soul used to define the body.

    And once a shifter bound a soul to him, it still existed as that type of soul. But a Dragon Shifter NOT having a Dragons Mana pool means that is not true. Because since a Soul defines the Mana Capacity, and (I thought) a shifter had two souls, its mana potiential would be the sum of both souls.

    Is the bound soul instead destroyed/heavily mutilated and the resulting shifter soul has aspects of its previous soul types? So a Human-Wolf shifter actually has a Wolfman soul, and a Wolf-Human shifter has a Manwolf soul 🙂 [But what would a the child of a Wolf-Human shifter and a Human-Wolf shifter have I wonder?]

    “They would be able to use psychic abilities outside their Aranea form – they would just have to draw upon their aranean part to do so.”
    I assumed Zorians “Open minded” bloodline and the Aranea’s natural “Open minded-ness” were essentially the same thing, and being a Aranea shifter would grant that as a byproduct of the merger. But it sounds like they are different if the Aranea shifter has to draw on it to turn it on?
    OR are they the same thing, but the shifters have Soul Switches installed by the ritual, and Zorian does not, so it is stuck on and cannot be turned off?

    COULD you do something similar to a shifter ritual (but not) where you find a soul with an ability/affinity and just attach that specific part, either by using a piece of the donor soul or copy/pasting that part of the soul structure?
    Like examining an Aranea’s Soul for whatever makes them “Open Minded” and adding that part to your soul (like the marker Zorian & Zach have) without the shapeshifting or giving your children inconvenient instincts?

    I had guessed that might have been how Zorians family gave themselves the ability, what with the Araena secretly dealing with humans for stuff, and learning magic, and witches being magic users…

    On Elements. what constitutes an element? Could Zorian learn the old rituals to make someone “Open minded” (he is already looking for this for his sister) and use it on someone who already had a bloodline ability?
    I know you already said something an ability like this already exists for unstructured telekenisis because of its versatility, can both be used of the same person, (hey, lets add affinity for teleportation also) for the Classic Psychic Combo? Is that ok, or would it just switch the affinity to the most recent used? Or do those all count as Typeless Magic, and Elemental Affinities like Estin has are something different?

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    • I guess I’ll add shifters to the list of articles I should write. Well, it’s already on the list but it should probably be higher on it…

      Shifter still have a base form, which is as human as anyone’s. As such, never get special abilities of their alternate form except by drawing upon characteristics of their alternate forms (which costs mana) or flat out shifting into the alternate form itself. This is true for aranean psychic abilities as much as for anything else.

      Shifters have one soul, with two (or multiple) parts… and accordingly a single mana pool. If they had two or more souls, the alternate souls’ mana pool would have been unavilable to them, since a person cannot just use another being’s personal mana to power their spells and abilities. And their mana potential is a blend of their forms, not a sum of them. An unpredictable blend, not something easily predicted like an average of the two.

      Souls are poorly understood, so isolating specific parts of them like that is not possible. But you can implant special abilities into yourself – that’s what enhancement rituals do (among other things). So long as you’re willing to permanently sacrifice a part of your mana reserves…

      An element is anything that some elemental is an embodiment of. Elements, in the magical sense, do not exist outside elemental spirits and abilities descended from them.

      It’s possible for someone to have multiple innate magical abilities, depending on how compatible they are. I leave it up to you to decide if two abilities can mesh together without clashing destructively. Personally, I’d be very conservative about that kind of thing, but it’s theoretically possible to combine just about anything. Of course, the more innate abilities you’re combining, the harder it becomes to make them all play nice with each other…

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  5. Sense this has somehow become a shifter thead, I got a question. As I understand it, inheriting shifter abilities has absolutely nothing to do with genetics and everthing to do with geneology as it’s solely related to the soul. If this is so, so long as your umpteenth removed great grandparent is a shifter does that mean that you would be one, with each generation inheriting it from their parents? This would imply that now that there are shifter groups outside of their traditionally insular tribes, shifters should effectively almost double every generation as a proportion of the population. Such a scenario could cause serious demographic issues if the shifter state couldnt be reversed because shifters of different types cant effectively have kids together out of fear of insanity.

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      • The union of a shifter and a non-shifter produces shifter children as seen with Nochka. Assuming marriage is basicly random as determined by love, most individual shifters will produce 2+ offspring who are also shifters with a non-shifter spouse. Soon everyone will be a shifter. This is bad. Is it real?

        Or, to perhaps put it differently, are the children of shifters also shifters, 100% of the time?

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      • Basically yes. But I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions. First of all, shifter marriages are not random – they tend to stick to their own people, rather than marrying random outsiders all the time (just like most people). Especially since non-shifters cannot understand them the way their fellow shifters can, and have often discriminated against them in the past. Second of all, they are a tiny minority – it would take quite a while for them convert the entire population to shifters, even if they all purposely married non-shifters like you suppose.

        So the shifter numbers are bound to increase a lot as time goes by, barring purges or shifter-specific disasters, but it won’t be some accelerating converting wave that leaves everyone a shifter in a handful of generations. Which is good for shifters, really. Any such explosive growth would likely see the authorities of their home nations freak out and find an excuse to wipe them out.

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      • Hmm. Thinking about this the shifter trait appears to be functionally equivilent to a gene drive. All children always inherit it. so unless it is extremely deadly to carriers you would indeed expect exponential growth. Just being insular isn’t enough. Any subgroup of shifters with a tendency to marry out would quickly grow to massive size unless something culls them.

        Fortunately you already included that their blood can be useful for some kinds of ritual so we could expect there to be a black market for sacrificial shifters. Providing a potentially significant element of attrition. Shifters might be insular for self protection.

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      • > Fortunately you already included that their blood can be useful for some kinds of ritual so we could expect there to be a black market for sacrificial shifters.

        Um…in what universe can this be called “fortunately”?!

        Growth may be exponential, but that doesn’t mean doubling every generation; it could mean multiplying by 1.01 with each generation. If most couples consist of two shifters having 2 children, then the population will probably shrink (due to accident and disease before reaching adulthood). The only shifter families we’ve heard about are Nochka, who is an only child, and Raynie, who has one brother. Not a recipe for massive growth.

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  6. How advanced are human in the technology and science front? Is it still in the steam age?

    How about electricity? If there’s already electricity based spell available, did people try using it outside of combat?

    Also how people doing long distance communication? Is there magic spell that available for sending sound/picture (ala radio wave) or maybe written message (something like morse machine).

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    • The technology level is somewhere in the range of 1800-1830s on Earth.

      They know about electricity, but make no notable use of it. Mana-based solutions are better at the moment. It is likely that the presence of magic will retard the advancement of electrical tech significantly, just like it did firearm weapons. But firearms still got developed and implemented on wide scale eventually, so electrical use is bound to turn up at some point. Just later than it would have on Earth.

      Long distance communication is via teleporting written messages and other packets around. Teleporting couriers and messengers are also used for more complex communication. They also make use of less mana-intensive methods like chains of light/mirror/fire towers (used in real life, too) that use the equivalent of morse code to transfer messages to the next tower in the chain.

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  7. You’ve mentioned that the reason humans cannot use dragon magic is that they lack the mana reserves required.

    Would Zach, with his massive mana reserves, be able to use dragon magic?

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      • How would Zach would fit into the draconic religion? It would be a bit tricky for him to pass The Legacy on, since very few humans could use it at all…

        Hmm, Oganj was a mage…I wonder whether Zach tried (at least at some point) to learn from him, and Oganj didn’t like the idea and showed why he’s considered a threat to national security, and thus began Zach’s crusade against him?

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  8. What are the innate magical abilities of dragons that don’t bother to learn structured magic? Presumably they can breathe fire? You’ve already indicated that they don’t automatically have any shapeshifting ability…

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    • They can breathe fire (and shape that breath to some extent, concentrating and guiding it and sometimes applying additional effects to the flame), release ‘battle roars’ (sound attacks), they’re great flyers despite their weight and size, their agility on the ground is more reminiscent to that of a tiger than an 8-meter long behemoth, their scales are supernaturally tough, they have powerful magic resistance, all of their senses are very sharp, they can see in the dark, they have very good magic perception and they can manipulate the air to some extent by using their wings (usually limited to directing gusts of air at things).

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      • How does a dragon’s senses, including magic sense, compare to a more well-known creature like a grey hunter?

        Also, how does their magic resistance compare?

        I am sort of expecting the grey hunter to have better senses but the dragon to have greater magic resistance.

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      • Dragons have better eyesight, hearing and smell, but the grey hunter has far better magic perception and a few exotic senses that a dragon just plain doesn’t have. Also, grey hunter is well-known, except maybe among the readers of the story. It is a very rare creature rarely seen in human lands – they actually prefer to hunt magical creatures and leave humans alone if they have other prey and they don’t blunder into their territory.

        Grey hunter is more magic resistant than a dragon.

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      • Now that you mentioned it, I am curious. What are these exotic senses grey hunters have?
        I want to make a guess that one of those exotic senses can detect electrical fields (like a shark but even better).

        I am also now wondering if one of those exotic senses might be soul-sight. Soul-sight would explain the immediate recognition of the simulcarum.

        Also, now that I am thinking about magic resistance, what is the most magic resistant creature in the MoL universe? Is there any creature with 100% magic resistance?

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      • Ability to sense vibrations through the ground (and other solid surfaces) and ability to interpret air currents. Both of which (along with its incredible magic perception) allow it to map out its immediate surroundings to an incredible degree. It can also ‘taste’ the ground through its feet, much like the aranea.

        I honestly don’t know what the most magic resistant creature is. Some of the deeper Dungeon denizens, certainly. And no, there is no such thing as 100% magic resistance. Theoretically, every magic resistance could be brute-forced if you had enough power on hand… but since the amount of power human mages can bring to bear on any particular problem is limited, some creatures are functionally immune.

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      • This talk of magical senses has me thinking about what might be the equivalent MoL universe creature to a bloodhound.

        Police, airport security, and hunters of various kinds use dogs and their keen sense of smell to find anything from drugs, to truffles, to explosives, to hikers buried in an avalanche. Is this obsolete due to humans being able to cast spells to search for things, or is there a domesticated magic creature with amazing sensory abilities that serves a similar purpose to how we use dogs in the real world?

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      • Hmm. That list of abilities sounds quite useful for a simple animal, but I don’t really see a creature of above-human intelligence settling for that if the full range of magic is available, and it has hundreds of years to learn. Even simple alarms, which Zorian could use in second year, would be very useful. For a creature so strongly attached to its lair, teleporting would be priceless.

        Unless the trade-off of mana capacity vs control is universal, and dragons have much poorer shaping skills than humans, making human magics unusable?

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      • Could a dragon channel mana through a human spell formula?

        There might be some customization needed, of course, especially for spells affecting the dragon itself, but if it’s possible at all, that would be a highly-valuable trade avenue.

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      • Hmm… spell formulas are specifically less flexible than invocations. It’s the very foundation on how they work and why they can last so long. For combat spells this isn’t terribly important, which is why combat mages use spell aids all the time, but for stuff like medical magic or divinations, that would kind of ruin the point.

        Still, while spell formula cannot duplicate the flexibility of many spells, they should be able to duplicate the delicateness of them, allowing creatures like dragons mimic human spellcasting to some extent. So trade in such is possible, though it is likely to be affected by two things:
        1. Dragons would view most human spells as too weak or pointless to bother with. Dragons don’t have a society in a human sense, so a lot of things humans care about, dragons don’t.
        2. Some spells that work for humans wouldn’t work for dragons. A human teleport wouldn’t be able to move a dragon, for instance, simply because of their sheer size and different shape – they would need a spell specifically tailored for dragon use.

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      • Hmm… a dragon teleport spell formula would be a really interesting topic for human/dragon collaboration.

        What, if anything, would inhibit a dragon from creating such a spell formula itself? Just their size, and corresponding difficulty of creating small inscriptions? Could humans create a spell formula for something too delicate for them to to cast via invocations?

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      • Although creating a spell formula blueprint is a purely mental exercise, actually creating a magic item out of it requires the ability to actually cast the spells in question. If you can’t cast a spell for whatever reason, you can’t create a spell focus of that spell.

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      • I suppose it’s no coincidence that aranea favor mind magic and illusions, requiring little mana but delicate shaping.

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      • Yup. And there is a reason why the matriarch specified that the aranea had to adopt human magic systems as if it was some kind of achievement – they couldn’t just blindly copy it, they had to adjust the entire spellcasting system to suit their body and affinities.

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      • So a dragon who wanted to teleport would indeed need to negotiate with a human. And a human with enough talent and mana to cast a dragon-sized teleport, at that. Still, if successful, such a spell formula would surely be fantastically valuable to dragons.

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      • > they’re great flyers despite their weight and size

        You mentioned that they need their wings intact to use that innate ability. I assume that dragon mages could instead replicate it with structured magic?

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      • This is indeed so – dragons cannot learn human magic any more than humans can learn dragon one.

        Does this mean the inverse mana pool and shaping skills relationship holds across species? If so, to what extent can dragons overcome it with the benefits of several centuries to practice.

        Does the hypothetical magical bloodhound exist naturally or would it be created by humans? Canine compatible enhancement rituals would be quite useful. They can’t cast spells, so it doesn’t matter how much of their mana you dedicate to sensory enhancement rituals, or even more combat focused rituals, depending on how much natural mana they have to work with.

        Imagine a truly massive dog breed, like a Caucasian Shepard or Tibetan Mastiff, but with superpowers. If that’s not adorable/terrifying I don’t know what is.

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      • I haven’t invested a lot of though into how other species would fare as mages, but yes – the mana pool and shaping skills tradeoff is present even in other species. There is little a dragon can do about it, even if they live for centuries – the size of their mana reserves makes some of the delicate spell effect pretty much impossible.

        I imagine that a magical bloodhound would already have most of its mana tied down into maintaining it’s existing innate magic, and would not have much left to support enhancement rituals. Plus, without ability to learn spellcasting it would have no means to excercise its mana reserves and would thus be stuck in the relatively underwhelming initial state…

        Not that you couldn’t produce a monster of a dog in MoL-verse, but it would probably be a result of breeding programs. Or a temporary transformation spell placed on it just before the battle.

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  9. Typos:

    most successfully ones/most successful ones
    in face of/in the face of
    costs and rivers/coasts and rivers
    form permanent settlements in/form permanent settlements
    maintain monopoly/maintain a monopoly
    comparable to those of a human/comparable to that of a human
    Contrary what/Contrary to what

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  10. I’m caught up again on the story so I can’t do much but obsessively read through these blog posts and all the comments (hopefully I haven’t left too many questions behind). Love the story, love the world building. It’s the kind of thing where the world alone is so fascinating that I’d love a completely open-ended and meandering plot, even though a clear and defined ending to the story is usually a mark of a better one.

    So a couple questions here:
    Is soul bond to a familiar much different than a generic soul bond? Can it be done to sapient beings?
    If I’m a powerful unaging mage and I soul-bonded a dragon-hatchling to make it my familiar, would its weaker more flexible personality mean I’d stay the spiritually dominant one, even as it grew to maturity? Or as it grew up and gained the full mental might of a dragon, would I eventually end up their familiar? (LOL)

    That brings up another question. Zorian and Zach were definitely shocked when Silverlake revealed she was immortal, but they didn’t disbelieve her either. How rare is it for humans to live to triple digit numbers in their own living body?
    And is her aging really stopped? If she keeps herself safe, will she eventually celebrate a quadruple digit age?

    Thanks again for the good story.

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    • A familiar bond is merely an adjusted soul bond; they’re basically the same thing. Doing it to sapient beings is certainly possible, but carries the same risks as a soul bond… obviously, since they’re basically one and the same.

      Trying to bond to powerful creatures when they’re very young is, in fact, the best way to bond with them… but there is no certainty that you’d stay the dominant one as it matures. You’re in a far better position than you would be if you tried to bond with a fully mature dragon, with it’s own life goals and fully-formed personality, but it’s still not guaranteed. Also, dragons mature really slowly so I hope you’re up for caring for your familiar for a very long time.

      People who have gained immortality/agelessness are very, very rare. The exact steps involved have never been publicly revealed, and are suspected to be unique for each person that tries it, but it requires a top-class alchemy skills and a lot of luck and effort.

      Her aging is really stopped. She could live indefinitely if nothing kills her. However, experiences with previous immortals have shown that most die after a few centuries. A millennia is a lot of time for something to go wrong, even if one stays out of trouble as much as possible… and if they were ambitious and driven enough to achieve immortality, they probably won’t just sit around and quietly enjoy life. The oldest recorded one lived for 700 years before being killed… which doesn’t mean there isn’t an older one, but if so they’re not advertising that fact.

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      • Thanks!

        I have to say though, I feel like, if I knew it was possible to become immortal, I’d be quite driven to acquire the power for myself. But once I did it, I’d relax, since my own lifespan was no longer putting a time limit on achieving my personal goals.

        But then, maybe I’m overestimating how okay I would be with relaxing, studying, gardening, etc if I’d been doing it for more than a human lifespan.

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      • I’ve heard it somewhere (can’t remember where) that someone has actually sat down and tried to calculate the average lifespan a person would have if they remained perpetually young and avoided danger at all costs. The conclusion was that they would still die after a few centuries, due to diseases, accidents and what not. MoL-verse immortals live in a world where you can make yourself supernaturally tougher, but their world is also a lot more dangerous than modern Earth, so I think it kind of evens out. The logic made sense to me, in any case, so that’s how it officially is in the setting.

        But yes, I kind of doubt you could excel well enough to master a complicated field of magical chemistry to a legendary level and then stop taking any risks after that. Especially since all kind of power groups and individuals would be interested in courting a legendary alchemist, and you’d have to interact with them to some extend to get the necessary materials, information and so on. Can you really do all that without getting invested into anything?

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      • >I’ve heard it somewhere (can’t remember where) that someone has actually sat down and tried to calculate the average lifespan a person would have if they remained perpetually young and avoided danger at all costs. The conclusion was that they would still die after a few centuries,

        Ahh. You know, I’m sure that’s been done multiple times, because I read something similar, but it put the average lifespan at ~1000 years.

        It’s surprisingly hard to google for, but I found one on reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/theydidthemath/comments/33hs0d/request_the_average_lifespan_of_a_human_if/cql4smi/) where they show their work. They got an average life expectancy of 567 years, but 10% would live to 1230, and a lucky 1% would make it to 2,382+ (that calculation does include no dying to disease though).

        But obviously that doesn’t include the psychological issues of outliving everyone they knew, or the social issues of more-than-a-human-lifespan of potential enemies. And like they say, to achieve its aims, a defense needs to be perfect and durable, but an attack (or accident) only needs to work once.

        That’s an excellent point in your last paragraph too. I might think highly of my abilities, but I don’t think if some copy of me were born in MoL-verse, they’d be able to reach immortality without incurring a lot of debts and obligations. An interesting irony in that: I’d seek out the promise of safety and security at all costs, even though some of those costs are going to endanger me.

        Great talk. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter.
        I’m especially excited since chapter 74 contained about five things I’d been wanting Zorian to do/use/seek out for like half of the story: high-powered magical rifle to take out the grey hunter, going back to Silverlake, pursuing soul-sight, and golem-simulacra. (I guess the potential fifth is linking his simulacra and him in some kind of mind-mesh, which he’s only researching, rather than doing.)

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  11. Would Zorian’s mind magic help him with controlling the instincts gained if he becomes a shifter, and would it let him potentially gain more than one shifter form or even a magical shifter form without suffering adverse affects?

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    • It might help, but it would be limited. Shifter mental influences are subtle and pervasive, and cannot be fully blocked off without disabling shifting powers entirely. Nobody can be on guard against harmful mental influence 24/7, because nobody has endless mana or mental fortitude. He’d still suffer adverse effects, but he’d be somewhat better equipped to handle them.

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  12. Both in the story and in the worldbuilding posts native magic of various races comes up a few times. What would be some examples of that, for races like lizardmen, sulthrom, yetis, or even cranium rats? Can their own magics actually do some impressive or unique stuff, or is it all just worse versions of human magic, since humans have already copied all the good parts?

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    • They can do impressive or unique stuff, but I never actually developed their spell lists so I can’t give you any examples. I’d have to think up some, and that’s more of a task for an article than a comment reply. Anyway, most of the unique magic they have are hard or impossible to copy for some reason, or kept secret from humans, which is why they were never copies. All of them tend to be limited to small groups of even individual lineages though – they effectively have their own collection of magic Houses, but no mage guild equivalent.

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