Basics of Magic – Spellcasting

The mysterious substance of mana is the foundation of magic. Magic is initiated and sustained through mana. Its lack or abundance sharply delineates what is and is not possible for a given mage to accomplish. It is not entirely wrong to say that having enough mana to produce the desired effect is the single most important thing when it comes to magic – the prerequisite that must be met before the mage can even begin their work.

And yet, having a sufficient quantity of mana is only half of the battle. Mana does very little on its own, after all. Something needs to take control of the mana and direct it towards a coherent goal. This directing, this shaping of mana is what people call spellcasting.

And being capable of spellcasting is what truly makes mages so formidable.

Prerequisite Skills:

Before a person can even think of performing magic, they must master a few minor but absolutely necessary skills. Specifically, they need to learn how to sense their own mana, quickly and reliably draw upon their personal mana reserves, consciously direct their mana along specific ways, visualize the desired result with a high degree of detail and clarity and exercise discipline over their thoughts to maintain concentration during spellcasting.

Although none of these skills are terribly difficult on their own, developing all five into a seamless and reliable whole has proven to be rather difficult. The process takes 2-4 years for an average mage and requires considerable work ethic and introspection. Instructors can provide guidance, but everyone’s thoughts and mana are somewhat different – it is up to aspiring mages themselves to figure out what works for them personally and what doesn’t. Some people just can’t do that while others lack the discipline to apply themselves to the problem with sufficient intensity. Numerous mage aspirants have been stopped from achieving their dreams at this very first step in the process.

In truth, the situation here has improved considerably in modern times. The increasing number of mages and the accumulation of magical knowledge available to the public have led to a specialized profession of magic instructors and vastly better training methods than what had existed in the past. Consequently, the success rate of passing this first major hurdle has gone way up than it was in the past. Historically, mages were fairly uncommon and magical training was done mostly through apprenticeships. Very few of these ‘master mages’ actually knew how to teach – they knew what worked for them and simply taught that to any student that came their way. If that was a poor fit for the student, well… tough luck. Go find another teacher willing to take you in. And that was assuming that the mage in question honestly tried their best when teaching someone. For many mages, the primary motivation for accepting apprentices was to have some extra hands to fob off all the boring chores and unpleasant work onto.

Of course, most modern magic instructors and teaching institutions actually demand far more than mastering just these five elementary skills from their students. Anyone who seriously intends to be a mage in one of the Altazian Splinter States, for instance, will also have to memorize a great number of different chants and gestures, develop an ability to draw upon ambient mana to replenish their personal mana reserves, learn the relevant laws governing the use of magic and a whole host of other things. But strictly speaking, one can do magic without satisfying these extra requirements. It’s just usually illegal to do so.

Unstructured Magic:

The oldest and simplest form of magic is unstructured magic. Anyone with prerequisite basic spellcasting skills is capable of performing it to some extent. All they have to do is visualize the effect they’re trying to produce and then direct mana at the problem until they get what they want. They may not succeed the first time, or the second time, or the tenth time, but they are bound to succeed eventually. They just need to keep at it long enough.

Unstructured magic works because souls can, to some extent, figure out how to perform feats of magic on their own. If given aid in directing mana outside the body and presented with a clear picture of the desired goal, the soul will slowly chip away at the problem in question, getting closer and closer to a solution with each attempt. Since this is a very blind and crude process, however, it can take quite a while before it converges on a viable solution. If the desired magical effect is complex or mana intensive, the training could take years, decades, or even so long that no person would live to see the results within their natural lifetime. Such long training times can be made more manageable by breaking down complex effects into multiple simpler steps and by studying similar magic, but the fact remains – unstructured magic is generally very time-consuming to train.

Some effects are easy to accomplish with unstructured magic. Mana is very much inclined to produce light, heat and kinetic force. In fact, it often does so against the caster’s wishes – most spellcasting is not flawless, and wasted mana naturally manifests itself in the form such energies. If the caster has a healthy amount of control over the mana involved in the spell, this means unwanted glows, rapid increase in the temperature of surrounding area and chaotic waves of kinetic force (often perceived as strange wind by spectators). If not, a failed spell could easily blow up in the caster’s face or burn their hands off. Thus, unstructured magic that deals with said energies is quite easy. Turning objects into sources of illumination, igniting paper and levitating things are all examples of elementary tricks that virtually every mage is capable of.

(As an aside: Because of its obvious inclination towards light and heat, magic has historically been heavily associated with fire in many different cultures. Ikosians, for instance, considered magic to be fashioned from the fire of the primordial world dragon from which the world was created.)

Unstructured magic is extremely flexible. The caster can use it at will, with no forewarning or preparation, and can adjust the details of what they’re doing from moment to moment, adjusting to changing circumstances far more agilely than a structured spell ever could. Not only is this a great boon in situations where speed and adaptability is crucial, it also means that many structured magic defenses – especially simpler, low-level ones – have trouble effectively countering unstructured magic. They are made for blocking rigid spell constructs that attack a target in very specific ways and have trouble dealing with magic that can be adjusted on the fly to attack their weak points or slip past their blind spots.

All this said, unstructured magic is something that virtually nobody trains exclusively in. Every mage has some amount of ability in it, but this is purely because a certain level of unstructured magic expertise is vital as a foundation for another system of spellcasting. One that gives results much faster than unstructured magic and also gives the mage a much more versatile set of magic skills to boot.

Structured Magic:

Unstructured magic can, in theory, do anything. It is unbounded and freeform. However, it is that very freedom that that is in some ways the problem. With no limiters in place, the soul loses itself in the vast space of different possibilities and takes an impractically long time to reach a viable solution for problems presented to it. What if there was a way for mages to direct the flow of mana in a more precise, forceful manner? What if one could tell the soul, not just what to do, but explain to it exactly how it should go about doing it?

Structured magic – also known as bounded magic and the divine limiter system – is a method of doing just that. By performing a series of words and gestures, the caster can invoke a rigid mana construct that directs mana in very specific ways. These rigid mana constructs are called spells in casual parlance, and also invocations… for Ikosians believe that structured magic had been handed to mankind by the gods themselves in ancient history.

Handed by the gods or not, spells are not black boxes that nobody understands. Rather, each spell is essentially constructed out of lego-like ‘blocks’ (spell elements) that can be assembled into all sorts of ways to produce desired effects. Humans cannot create new types of spell elements, but existing ones can be combined in novel ways easily enough. Spell crafters are constantly inventing new spells through this process and it doesn’t seem like the potential of the system as a whole is anywhere close to being fully tapped.

In order to cast a structured spell, the caster must communicate the structure of the spell in question to their soul. This is usually done by reciting a chant and performing a series of hand gestures. Specific words and gestures invoke specific spell elements, essentially explaining to the soul of the caster how it should go about constructing the spell boundary. The reason both chanting and gestures is typically used is to cut down on spellcasting time – by ‘speaking’ two things at once, the casting time is essentially halved. ‘Silent spells’ that only used gestures and ‘still spells’ that only use chants both exist, and naturally take far longer than regular spells to cast.

Although spell elements are bound to certain words and gestures (henceforth: proxies), the proxies do not possess power of their own. If a spell proxy is used in normal social interaction, by a person ignorant of its significance, it will invoke nothing except its mundane meaning. Even knowing that a word or gesture is a proxy is not enough. They must know exactly what the proxy stands for in order to use it.

Spell elements are not exclusively tied to one specific proxy. Modern mages typically use the Old Ikosian language and conventions in their spellcasting, but it is entirely possible to bind a spell element to another proxy. Doing this requires cooperation of a mage already capable of invoking spell elements, but this isn’t an especially stringent requirement. This is especially important for non-human species like aranea, who are incapable of mimicking human speech and hand movements, but even some human cultures find the default Ikosian magic vocabulary too alien for their liking. As such, spell elements are bound to new words and gestures all the time. It should be noted, however, that there are many spell elements and that the translation of the entire Ikosian spellcasting language into another functional spellcasting language is a major undertaking that can easily take decades of hard work to accomplish. On top of that, this makes it more difficult to use the bulk of existing magical literature, and is thus often more trouble than it’s worth.

Invoking a spell element successfully is obvious. Thus, if a mage performs a proxy incorrectly and fails to invoke a spell element, they will immediately know it. However, they can still ruin the spell without realizing it by missing some of the proxies, adding ones that shouldn’t be there or performing proxies in incorrect order.

In any case, although a spell boundary defines how the mana should be used to produce an effect, that doesn’t mean that performing the spell will result in a successful magical effect the first time its cast. The spell boundary simply narrows down the possibility space to something small enough that the soul can figure it out relatively quickly.

Still, even if the learning process is not instant, it is blazingly fast when compared to alternatives. Spells that would take decades of training if done through unstructured magic can be learned in a week, and things that would require a week of tireless repetition can be mastered in five minutes of practice.

There are trade-offs involved, of course. Although a spell boundary massively shortens the time necessary to learn a piece of magic, the rigidness of the mana construct limits the ability of the caster to adjust the effect of the spell beyond what is programmed into the spell boundary. Generally, the caster defines how the spell will behave when he casts the spells – after that, the magic mostly does its own thing and the caster has very limited ability to change its behavior beyond just dismissing it entirely and casting a brand new spell.

This inflexibility can be ameliorated by having a mage invest some of their time into unstructured magic related to often-used spells. Doing this allows the caster to use more loosely defined spell boundaries in their spells, which gives them more freedom in adjusting their effects to suit their needs at the moment. This practice is widely used among modern mages, and is the main reason why modern structured spells are so flexible compared to their ancient counterparts. Previously, a combat mage had to learn 15 individual variations of a fireball spell if they wanted to have a high degree of control over the blast radius, fire intensity and other variables. The modern version of the fireball spell can do everything those 15 variations did, provided one has sufficiently high shaping skills to actually cast the spell.

In addition to being inflexible, structured spells also require a rather lengthy casting procedure. This is both inconvenient and dangerous. Especially in battle but sometimes even outside of it – the longer the casting procedure, the more chances for something to do wrong or for the caster to be interrupted halfway through. And while unstructured magic can usually be dismissed or adjusted if something goes wrong, structured magic essentially offloads a lot of the mana shaping and safety control to the spell boundary… if it is damaged or improperly made, the caster could easily end up dead.

It is possible to shorten the casting time of structured spells. The first method is through spell formulas, which are outside the scope of this article. The second method is by casting a spell so often that it becomes reflexive. That is, the soul gets so proficient at shaping the mana into that specific spell that the mage in question can start gradually dropping proxies from the casting procedure one by one. Eventually, the spell can be executed with a single word or gesture… or even with a mere thought.

The problem is that it takes years for a spell to reach that level. Developing reflexive magic is not that much faster than developing unstructured magic.

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100 thoughts on “Basics of Magic – Spellcasting

  1. Great article.
    Except for “The first method is through spell formulas, which are outside the scope of this article.”
    That part made me a little sad.
    About ‘Spell Elements’, what is a individual spell element like in terms of what they cover?
    Is something like ‘effects yourself’ one spell element, or many?
    Are some spell elements restricted, or been lost over time, making some spells impossible? (the mages don’t know the spell element connected to the proxy)
    Can a proxy be bound to more then one spell element? (A ‘Aaargh’ phoneme triggering a different spell element in Ikosan and Kothian or something)
    Can you bind multiple multiple spell elements to a proxy in order, like making the the phrase “Go Die In A Fire” in Draconic a proxy for a complete Fire Spell?
    Have there been attempts to independently recreate spell elements, or invent new ones? (someone being able to do an effect with unstructured magic, and using that as the basis of a spell element to associate with a proxy)

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    • I actually never defined any spell elements. So I can’t really tell you what they would cover. None of them are broad enough to to define a spell all on their own through – even the simplest spell needs at least 3-4 spell elements.

      ‘Effect yourself’ would probably be too vague to be a spell element. ‘Center the spell area on my center of mass’ or ‘affect my own mind’ or ‘affect my own soul’ are more viable, I think. But this is just my gut feeling – as I’ve said, I didn’t actually make any spell elements.

      Can a proxy be bound to more then one spell element? That’s… an interesting question. I originally thought the answer is clear no, but then you pointed out that same words can have different meanings in different languages, which I didn’t think of at all. And what if someone proceeds to bind spell elements to a language in a very illogical manner – is everyone else stuck using that mess of a system just because some asshole started the project first? I’ll have to think more about this.

      You cannot bind multiple multiple spell elements to a proxy, but you can condense multiple proxies into a sort of meta-proxy. This is why high-level combat spells can be cast in any kind of reasonable time span, despite being hundreds of spell elements long, and why spell formula are sometimes described to be condensed into singular glyphs and such in the story.

      No one knows how to create new spell elements. They have been handed down to humanity by the gods, or so it is said. However, modern mages have very comprehensive lists of all existing ones and are extremely obsessive about preserving them. As such, no spell element has been lost to the ravages of time and war thus far. Even if one region temporarily loses it’s spell element records, they can always import them back in short order from one of the many, many outside repositories.

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      • “I’ll have to think more about this.”
        If there are detailed spell elemental records, the probable answer is that to use something as a proxy, you need to know what spell element it is a proxy for. And the records not only give you lists of proxies, but what they are proxies of. And to bind a new proxy you need to not just know spell elements, you need to know of existing proxy-spell element pair for the spell element you want to bind with a new proxy.
        For human language, there are only so many distinct sounds, so chances are any given one has been bound to many, many spell elements over time, and is part of other proxies consisting of multiple phonemes combinations.
        Like the sound HA. It could have been bound as a proxy for some spell element relating to a quick expulsion of mana. And sometime later bound as proxy to a spell element used in mind magic making someone feel joy.
        And is also part of Hands, which is a proxy for a spell element having to do with fine manipulation.
        Most people don’t have a problem with this unless they are really, really mentally inflexible. They can speak “Ha” here and have it be That sound Martial Artists make when they do some martial arts moves, and then use “Ha” there and have be the sound when someone laughs, and then “Ha” in another place as the first half of the sound that means those things at the end of your arms.

        I it’d think the same thing could be a proxy for different elements, just not at the same time, unless someone was trying to be clever and build around that, like having two invocations of the same length in spell elements, bound to the same proxies in the same order, and could think and conceptualize in multiple mental threads, and was trying to make some dual casting method.

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      • So are then proxies like, say mathematics symbols? A mnemonic system for certain mental operations everyone uses and everyone understand so there is no point in inventing another one (much less practical) just for the heck of it, (with exceptions maybe in cases such as aranea, for which human speech and gestures are simply impossible to perform) except for mana shaping instead? Or is there something more to this whole proxy binding process?

        Are there finite number of spell elements (known or otherwise) which is why humans can’t create new ones – only combine existing (like say op-codes for given processor architecture – you can’t define new ones only combine them – something akin to assembler programming) that soul can perform? Or it is simply beyond human understanding or capacity to do so?

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    • Reflexive magic depends on seemingly artificial spell elements layer. If gods disable spell elements, reflexive magic will stop working.

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    • If you reach the point with a spell that it is completely reflexive and you can use it without needing to invoke any proxies at all it may very well be the same as unstructured magic, since your soul knows what to do without reference to any spell elements at all.

      The difference between approaches is in what happens before you get to that perfectly mastered end stage. Lets say we are talking about a all purpose broadly applicable “Move stuff with your mind just by thinking how you want it to move” telekinesis spell. The kind of thing that could be used for many, many things, ranged punches and force attacks, deflection of objects, flight, “I find your lack of faith disturbing” attacks, CPR heart massages, etc.

      We have been told there are three paths to the same goal.
      The first, brute forcing it by thinking at your soul “things should move the way my thoughts say they should move just by me spending mana” and then spending mana trying to move things with your thoughts and wanting it Really Really Hard. This approach will theoretically give results EVENTUALLY, but not for a LONG, long time. Probably way longer than a human lifetime, but something like a Dragon with a millennia long lifetime could do it. Because it is sort of like assigning a bunch of monkeys at the problem and waiting until they luck into something coherent. And is sort of all or nothing, and you wouldn’t get linear results. If it took 300 years for this unstructured telekinetic ability, you wouldn’t have the ability at 50% at the 150 year mark. You would have a whole lot of time invested spending mana trying to move things with your mind to mostly wasted results until something in you soul just ‘clicks’ and your soul figures it out mostly whole cloth. Like 250 years of mostly “well, THAT didn’t work” and then 50 years of increasing proficiency until you are a master of the Mind Hand Sacrament.

      The second way is breaking up the above into a lot of discrete shaping exercises. This is quicker overall, and actually gives you something usable in the between stages before you have the finished full telekinetic ability mastered. This is because small, specific, narrow goals are easier for the soul to learn, and can then be used as reference points and springboards for later improvements of the ability. This is the path of levitating pen in your hand, then learning to spin it, then learning not to use the hand as a reference, then learning to lift bigger and heavier things, then learning to lift multiple small things, then using to lift multiple heavier things, etc. Where if the final end result is being able to lift hundreds of arrows with your mind and accurately shoot them to the horizon, somewhere along the way you would still be able to lift a dozen arrows and throw them accurately a hundred meters or so..

      The third way is to learn or develop a Globe of Greater Telekinesis structured spell that lets you do all that stuff in an area around you. Granted, something like this would have some pretty high shaping requirements, but would give you the end result of the above methods every time you cast it, at least in terms of power. You would start at the end of the path the first two options are leading you towards, simple by successfully casting the spell. It would need a lengthy casting time, and be less efficient in term of mana than unstructured abilities above, since the more ingrained in a soul magic is, the more efficient it is. And as the spell became more reflexive, you could start leaving out part of the casting process to invoke it faster, and the mana efficiency would improve. Halfway through the process of making it a fully reflexive spell, you would have full power available, something the other two methods could not give you, but it would probably still take to long to cast in combat with using a Spell Formula. Which is an advantage and option the first two paths cannot offer at all.

      TL;DR. the difference isn’t in the end result, it is what each approach gives you in that lengthy period before you reach the end result.

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      • After reading the article again, I saw the answer to my question. I just skimmed it too quickly and missed details.

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      • While this is broadly true, unstructured magic does have a bit of an advantage over a reflexive spell of the same ‘type’. A reflexive spell, after all, still has the same limitations that the original spell did – a reflexive fireball can only vary its parameters to the same extend that a normal fireball spell can. On the other hand, if you could develop an unstructured fireball-type magic, you could probably adjust it to your heart’s desire, because you’d have such a solid foundation in fire magic and everything else necessary to reach that step.

        Of course, once a person has completely taken out the need to use proxies when casting a spell, they can start playing around with adjusting it’s parameters in unstructured manner, eventually transcending the normal limits of the spell. However, that basically amounts of unstructured magic training, with the added difficulty that you probably lack a proper foundation for your tinkering.

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    • I could be misinterpreting this, but viewing it in programming terms, I imagine unstructured magic as “write everything in assembler” and reflexive magic as “develop a program that does exactly what you want, without needing further input, when you run it”.

      Or, to put it a slightly different way, a reflexive spell is one that you have practised until it effectively becomes a large spell element.

      Mastering unstructured magic offers much greater benefits, because it requires far more investment into understanding exactly what you’ve built, and consequently you’ll have a huge headstart on all related spells. On the other hand, developing a standard spell until it’s reflexive is good for taking advantage of best practices; things you develop yourself will quite possibly cut corners.

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  2. As always reading this stuff is absolutely fascinating, I wish I could say it gives me a bunch of questions so that I could learn about Mother of Learning but for the most part it answers everything related to the topic for me at least.

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  3. Thanks for the detailed explanation of the magic system. Fascinating stuff! I love the world building of this story. I must admit I keep imagining ways Zorian and Zach can grow stronger in this world. It’s a fun pastime and shows how well the world is constructed, there are so many possibilities and it’s coherent still. This article cleared up a lot of my questions! I was still wondering about stuff like soul sight though. That is an ability of the soul, right? As such Zorian acquiring it in one restart would transfer the ability to other restarts? Enhancement rituals also seem fascinating, I’d guess they need modify the soul as well since they give abilities that seem impossible without the soul instinctively understanding certain magics due to the ritual.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!!

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    • Rest assured, I have soul magic and permanent enhancements in my ‘list of topics to cover eventually’ folder. It seems to be a popular topic among readers. Anyway, giving details about soul sight is a bit spoilerish still, so I will refrain from answering that for now.

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      • ‘list of topics to cover eventually’
        What are the differences between a Ritual and other magics, like and an Invocation? Is any really long invocation just called a ritual, are are there bigger differences than that? Do rituals eventually get reflexive?

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      • Rituals are really just long invocations, yes. They’re spells that take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours to cast. They stress the caster’s concentration in a way that normal spells don’t and often make use of exotic material components, multiple casters and other oddities. Their main purpose is to make spells that are usually potent – in power, range, area or effect or some other criteria – and it does so by greatly lengthening the casting time and making use of some other external aid. Such as multiple casters, other people’s mana, life force, bound or willing magical creatures, alchemical components, exotic locations, spell formula and so on.

        Rituals don’t get reflexive, no. They could, but they’re not the sort of spells one can cast often, due to long casting time and the fact many of them require additional requirements beside caster’s time and mana. At best, some people can shorten the rituals for a bit after performing them for years and years – because rituals are so long, making out a single spell element or a few doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

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  4. >Developing reflexive magic is not that much faster than developing unstructured magic.

    Hmm. I don’t actually see a difference between them. For example, if a mage takes time to learn an ability to cast a Shield spell reflexively, they train their soul to invoke the spell boundary of the spell with no external aid of chants and gestures. And if they learn an ability to invoke an unstructured Shield, they too train their soul to invoke the spell without external aid. Unlimately, the result is the same, it’s just the path to the result is different for reflexive and unstuctured spellcasters.

    Am I right?

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    • Wrong. One spell costs inherently more mana because it is two stage instead of one stage. Reflexive magic creates the spell boundary and the spell itself. Both cost mana.

      Unstructured magic uses no boundary, skipping a step and thereby being more efficient.

      The result is very similar, but one would cost slightly less mana and also be vastly more accomodating to real-time modification.

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      • You are right that unstructured magic is vastly more accommodating to real-time modification, but for the most part both methods would use the same amount of mana. This is because, although a reflexive spell has to spend mana on the spell boundary, it also makes use of mana needed to power the spell itself in far more efficient/focused manner. Unstructured mana is more versatile but tends to be ‘fuzzier’ – less tightly focused and directed, which makes it more lossy and crude. For simpler pieces of magic, this doesn’t matter much, and moderate-level magic can be drilled to perfection. But in regards to very complex effects, structured spells (including reflexive ones) are actually more mana efficient than unstructured ones, simply because no one can train them to be as laser-focused as structured magic usually is.

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    • See my reply to Nanana below. But anyway: the result would be roughly the same, except that the unstructured version would be far more open to impromptu modification in the heat of the battle, whereas the reflexive spell version would be limited to what the original spell was capable of.

      Of course, the structured spell would give you a usable piece of magic right away and then slowly gave you an even better one while unstructured magic would give you little at first and then slowly built up to a greater payoff at the end, but hey. Trade-offs.

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      • Can pre-existing shaping mastery, unstructured magic acumen allow you to have a structured spell that duplicates something you can already do without a spell boundary be reflexive as soon as or soon after you learn it?

        Like assume Zorian never learned the teleportation spell. Instead he did various dimensional shaping exercises that built up over the years into a unstructured proficiency with dimensionalism that among other things, allowed him to teleport from place to place. And then he found a teleportation spell. How long until he can drop all the proxies involved in it’s casting to be able to teleport with a thought the same way he could with unstructured magic, but benefiting from the spell efficiency structured magic gives to complex spells?

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      • Not as soon as you learn the spell. A structured spell still requires you to construct a spell boundary, even if it’s reflexive, and that’s something unstructured magic doesn’t help you with. But it would be faster than it would otherwise is. Say… you could make a spell reflexive in the quarter of the time it would usually take if you can already perform a similar effect in unstructured manner.

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  5. There is a question I want to ask but feel might be spoilerish. . . . Oh well.

    Can reflexive magic be used as a starting point for learning to cast the same spell in an unstructured manner. I am imagining this with spells like the mana bolt and mana shield. After having a flawless mastery of the shaped versions, I feel it would not be too much of a stretch to then progress to an unstructured version of the spell. It’s like training wheels on a bicycle. First you need 2, then just one, and eventually you don’t need any. It often isn’t actually any faster than just going straight to a real bicycle, and can actually be slower if one gets too acclimated to the training wheels, but if done correctly, it should be helpful as a starting point.

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    • It’s possible to use a reflexive spell as a base to built and expand upon using further unstructured magic training. However, doing this makes things much harder than it would otherwise be, because you lack the foundation necessary to truly direct the mana in alternate ways. It’s like building a castle on top of a cliff with no road access or constructing a port on an unstable sandbank instead of a nice sheltered bay. Doable, but not something to be done lightly.

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  6. Is it possible to use spells on your own soul and “force” it to learn new spells faster.
    For example, understanding something complicated creates a change in your brain-cells and their connections to each other. So it is theoretically possible to let someone understand math better by changing their brain. How about your soul?
    Even if you may not be able to force your own soul to understand something you dont understand, it should be possible for a teacher to change the soul of the apprentice.

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      • What about the gods? It is established that they had far greater mastery of the soul, and at least occasionally bestowed blessings. Was is possible for such a blessing to be something like “here is four years of training your soul to understand fire magic, gifted in a single blessing”?

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      • Primordials were entirely capable of tangling with the gods in most respects. They also had potent knowledge of soul manipulation and could indeed give out such… uh, blessings. Keep in mind that the ‘blessings’ of primordials are kind of like repeatedly clicking on one of those random description generators you can find on the internet and then picking the craziest option that pops out – it’s a very, very risky thing.

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  7. Is accidentally using a reflexive spell any more likely than “accidentally” punching someone in the face, considering that both things are controlled with your thoughts?

    Is reflexive spell use any more common now that modern spells have so much fewer spell elements?

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    • No, unless you are afflicted with some kind of serious disorder or have psychological problems, you aren’t going to accidentally use a reflexive spell.

      Reflexive spell use in indeed more common in modern times, because of better shaping skills in general.

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  8. Since unstructured magic training involves the soul figuring out how to better perform a certain effect and since simulacra share a single soul with the original, does that mean that you can use simulacra to get better at magic?

    If that is the case, it seems that Zorian’s simulacra have been spending much of their time poorly.

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    • Simulacrums can practice shaping and the effects will stay with the soul after they go away, yes. The reason Zorian doesn’t have them do that usually is that performing shaping exercises and repeatedly casting spells would burn through mana fast and he already recovers it very slowly because he has to maintain 3 or more simulacrums simultaneously. Additionally, getting better at magic is more than just the ability of the soul to get better at shaping – memories and habits gained through training are important too, and they don’t transfer over to the original. Zorian, being a powerful telepath, can gain some of the relevant memories (if they know they are relevant), but habits are completely impossible to absorb from the simulacrums.

      Finally, Zorian is pretty damn good at shaping currently. His problems cannot really be solved through better shaping skills, so unless he is pursuing a specific spell of exercise that he has deem critical and time-sensitive, he doesn’t focus on it.

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      • That makes sense. I was under the impression that many shaping exercises used insignificant amounts of mana, but after rereading some parts, I see that Zorian was somewhat limited by his mana recovery rate in that regard even before he learned the simulacrum spell (even though they appear to use far less mana than repeatedly casting spells).

        One way you might get around this would be to have some of your simulacra absorb mana at an unsafe pace, since as I understand it, that can even be done fast enough to refill your mana during combat, but perhaps simulacra are more fragile in that regard than humans?

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      • Simulacrums can assimilate ambient mana, yes, but only up the maximum that Zorian can safely handle. Meaning that a single simulacrum can max out the regeneration boost that can be achieved with this method. Also, that means ‘wasting’ a simulacrum by assigning it to just sit around and absorb mana all the time instead of doing something productive. It would also be very, very boring for the simulacrum and would likely result in it wandering off to do its own thing after a while.

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      • Perhaps absorbing mana constantly would be a bore, but what if it was only during battles? That might be useful, especially if it was all the simulcarums working together to absorb ambient mana and refine it into usable mana. Seems like something that would be at least worth testing.

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      • As I said, there would be no point for all simulacrums to work together on assimilating mana – the soul can only handle so much, and a single simulacrum can already hit the cap.

        As for using this during battles – a much better way of getting better mana regeneration during battle would be to dismiss all simulacrums in order to negate the drain on mana reserves they pose. This is basically what Zorian does before any significant battle.

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      • So, the maintenance cost for a single simulacra is always greater than the maximum extra mana that can be actively assimilated from the environment?

        Otherwise, it seems like it would make sense to save one of them and dismiss the others while you are fighting. Especially if the fight takes place in a low mana environment.

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      • “Zorian, being a powerful telepath, can gain some of the relevant memories (if they know they are relevant), but habits are completely impossible to absorb from the simulacrums.”

        As an aside, I have a theory that one of the reasons Zorian gets such good cooperation from his simulacrums (despite all the warnings we’ve heard) is that they do have this option to send back a memory or insight they think is especially important to preserve. Even if they don’t use it very much, it makes a nice security blanket against existential despair. Knowing you’re going to ‘die’ soon isn’t as bad if you can send important things back to Zorian-prime

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      • In response to Matthew, my own feeling as to why his simulacra are so relatively well-behaved is that they’re actually quite smug about being good simulacra. Considering comments like “stupid flesh and blood people and their prejudice” (paraphrasing here), they seem to be, first of all well aware, that they are simulacra and given that knowledge want to be actually GOOD at it (kind of like Zorian wants to strive to be good in his specialties). I think they like shoving it in the face of others how awesome they are in their capacity of being replicas of Zorian…

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      • Reading chapter 23 it seems to be implied that the additional regeneration gained is quite significant compared to someone base mana regen. To quote:

        “Apparently there was a way to assimilate ambient mana faster if you sat completely still and focused on doing absolutely nothing else. So not very useful, all things considered, but probably crucial if he intended to complete Xvim’s newest exercise in any sort of reasonable time-frame.”

        No hard numbers, but you’d expect it giving easily 2x more regen considering the wording and how it normally take (hours?) to fully regen his reserves. And now that a simulacrum only requires 1/6 of his base regen it makes it even more worth it. Ideally he’d want to station one permanently on the task (might even work out depending on what he can do with internal mind magic), but I imagine a rotation would work out in the meantime.

        And while it’s true that he won’t get every single benefit from simulacrums improving his shaping, having them improve things like mana sensing (the assumption being that habits don’t matter nearly as much for sort of skill) seems like a good way to use them when possible. Does Zorian even have his simulacrums with him when he uses the black rooms?

        Beyond that, hopefully his study of the cranium rats hivemind and the hydra will eventually allow him to cheat and be able to have the full benefits of a simulacrums practicing something instead of just partial gains. Anything that makes his remaining time more efficient is for the best as far as he’s concerned after all.

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  9. The whole thing with Sudomir doing a customized shifter ritual makes me want to see Zorian attempt something similar but not to the same extent. Sudomir has already proved that his method is theoretically workable. Now Zorian just needs to scale it down so that he is only merging two or three animal souls. To do this successfully, I have no doubt that soul sight is necessary. I do hope he gains soul sight before the end of the time loop. It would make life so much easier.

    I am also very curious about how close he can get to Cranium Rat or Hydra level mind syncronization with his simulcarums. He is already getting closer with his soul connection thing, but by no means should this be the limit.

    The greatest advantage of the cranium rat method seems to be the exponential increase in intelligence. If he can multiply his intelligence with the hive mind method, he would be nearly unstopable. He might even be able to descifer the mysteries of his own soul and the soul marker. I doubt this is the direction of the story, but it is fun to consider.

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    • Zorian made it pretty clear in a previous chapter that he’s not even going to be taking a familiar, much less undergoing a shifter bonding ritual, because of the potential to mess up the very delicate state of his damaged Brand. Maybe he’ll change his mind once he has soul perception, because he’d have more insight as to what would happen, but I don’t know if he would.
      I’m also really excited about him accomplishing a kind of continuous mental mesh between himself and all his simulacra. I can’t wait to see. My personal prediction is that it’s not going to give him supernatural intelligence, since he’s still a human, very different from a cranium rat, but I like to think he’ll reach a point where his simulacra are no longer separate beings, but more like extra points of view for one mind with full multi-tasking ability.

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  10. I keep wondering what sort of mental enhancements the matriarch of the Luminous Advocates might have. Since she is the leader of the web with the greatest mind magic techniques, I expect her to be on a level all her own to the point that she overshadows the enhancements of all other matriarchs, even the Cyorian matriarch.

    She is the one Aranea I most want to show up in the story. She might even be the greatest master of mind magic in the entire story or at least in the top five.

    I also really want to meet the matriarch of the Filigree Sages. She seems like she might be interesting.

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    • Luminous Advocate elders and matriarch are definitely better at mind magic (including enhancements) than their counterparts in the Cyorian web. Cyorian web focuses primarily on magic, trying to apply human spellcasting – and, to a somewhat lesser extend, technology – to their own society.

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  11. So this world you have created, do they have any award ceremony for significant accomplishments in magic academia?

    We have the Field’s medal in mathematics and the Nobel prize in physics. Are there prestigious awards for the greatest contributors to advancement in things like spell formations or a reward for greatest alchemy innovation of the year? I imagine it would have to be kingdom specific since most kingdoms don’t seem to have a unified magic community.

    But the question stands, is there a kingdom or are there multiple kingdoms who issue such awards for exemplary achievement in a specific field of magical study?

    I feel that if there were such a thing, Kael seems like he would be approaching eligibility for such an award with his alchemy research.

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    • I didn’t think about it, but there are bound to be organizations that hand out prizes for notable accomplishments. They might not be entirely country-specific, actually, since the Splinter States were once part of a semi-unified alliance… though there is definitely no single organization acknowledged by everyone to be the One True Authority.

      The five major powers among Splinter States (Eldemar, Sulamnon, Falkrinea, Abnazia and Tetra) almost certainly hand out awards for such things… probably not just to their own citizens either. Other countries probably have their own state-specific awards.

      Kael’s achievements would definitely make a lot of people sit up and take notice. Even if they knew how he did it, the fact that such a young alchemist managed to organize a research effort despite losing all his memories every month and having to reorient himself through his notes is still very impressive.

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  12. Fascinating. There is no reason this would turn up in the story unless Zorian ends up meeting a recipient of such an award, but it is interesting to think about when considering long term goals Zorian might have and how he might compile a list of people to try getting help from or learning from.

    Unfortunately, as mind magic is generally not the most publicly approved of magic, Zorian is not likely to get a great reception for the book on natural mind magic that he plans to publish once he gets out of the time loop.
    It would have been nice if his great accomplishments in magic were of a more socially acceptable kind.

    I would like to see at least Kael get such an award for his research in an epilogue chapter or something
    when you eventually tell us what becomes of the real world after all this time loop craziness.

    I don’t see Zach really doing anything except what he is already doing, running around and stirring up trouble. He will probably also hang around Zorian a lot for the simple fact that Zorian is his closest friend and will forever be the only one who understands him, having gone through the time loop himself.

    He will probably spend the rest of his days coming up with crazy ideas and trying to get Zorian to join him.

    I genuinely wonder what Zorian will do with his life after he has fulfilled all his time loop debt obligations. I feel he might formally bind himself to the Cyorian web due to a feeling of indebtedness and perhaps marry Tinami since she is the ultimate spider enthusiast as well as a mind mage and a member of a witch house. Zorian also has witch lineage, which adds up to the both of them really having a lot in common. Her family might also be a great source for getting soul sight.
    Besides all the benefits he would get, I am sure the Aope family would just love to introduce a mind magic bloodline into their family.

    That is just my opinion of course, and Zorian might actually have very different plans and actually manage to make something work between him and Taiven. That would also be acceptable and very cute.

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    • >I don’t see Zach really doing anything except what he is already doing

      You might be surprised. 🙂 Not going to spoil anything but he does have goals beyond just running around and looking for trouble. As hard as that might be to notice from his current behavior. It’s just that he has already made all his preparations long ago – he needs to leave the time loop to truly put his plans into motion.

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      • Fascinating!

        I look forward to seeing a Zach who acts intentionally with a plan and serious goals.

        I can imagine what some of those goals might be, but I am sure I will be surprised about how he goes about achieving them.

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      • I can somewhat guess what Zach will be trying to do in the real world after the mess is over. But I still don’t understand why Zach hadn’t asked for help in his task (just for one month) from Zorian, now our guys have far more power and connections than Zach in his earlier days. Is he waiting for search of keys to end or when he will get his own simulacrums? How driven is he? Will he use whatever means necessary, for example: divulging some threatening information, theft, using ensuring invasion crisis for his own purposes, making a name for himself and gather like-minded people to stand higher in negotations. Please, don’t answer those if we will see all that in the story.

        Didn’t you get an idea to end the third arc soon and set your hands on the forth. The arc focusing on adventures in real world: The Last Month and you kind of planned an event follow-up? My soul is tearing from the inside out thinking that story may end soon. I think nobody will reproach you even if you will take longer to write.

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    • I’m a bit surprised by how many Tinami+Zorian shippers I see, but I’m not surprised.

      I’ve been idly thinking about what I’d want to do in Zorian’s place, since, well, quite a lot of what he’s done feels vaguely similar to what I would’ve (though I probably would’ve accomplished a lot less as a 15 year old version of myself; and even a little older version of myself I think I would’ve done a lot more carnal living it up, as it sounds like Zach has).

      There’s a part of me that would turn to Zach and go, “You know, you’ve obviously been Chosen in some manner. Your mana is a gift that’s probably only in the gods’ power to grant. Outside, you’ll literally save the world from a primordial, the evil child-sacrificing cult that summoned it, and an invasion lead by a necromancer. You’ll know how to get all of the five original tools of the first emperor, and you’re literally in the *Sovereign* Gate right now. How do you feel about starting a new empire? You be emperor, I’ll be your First Mage or something. Nothing else seems like it’d be an interesting enough challenge anymore.”

      I say only a part of me though. That sounds like it’d definitely lead to war, and I’m pretty down on more war, not to mention royalism in general. But I’d almost definitely attach myself to Zach and trying to help him recover his house and lay some legal (and hopefully physical) smack down on the caretaker.

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  13. Has the size of Zorian’s mana pool reached its limit yet? I can’t recall if this was stated or not. I know his shaping seems to be growing without any hint of slowing down, but I don’t remember much being mentioned about the size of his mana pool.

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      • You should mention it in the story. So Zorian have reached a plateau…

        But I understand – you don’t want to drive yourself into frames, some people (especially gamers) like to calculate mana expenditure and regen 😉

        Oh…
        Maybe you also forgotten to mention in the last chapter(73) that when the black room shut itself down emperor’s orb was in deployed state. Or else how to describe that ZZ could teleport with it (gating is another matter).

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      • Yeah, I probably should have mentioned his mana reserves have plateaued. Though keep in mind that this is more like approaching an asymptotic point than hitting a rock hard limit. You can always technically keep improving, it’s just that at some point (at about 4 times you initial mana reserves) you start getting ever-diminishing returns for your effort. So nobody ever advances much past 4 times their initial amount, even if they practice for hundreds of years. Well, not without some very special circumstances…

        It’s true, giving too many numbers would lead to me quickly being show to be inconsistent. It’s a bit embarrassing, but I find it a bit of a pain to constantly calculate spell costs and the like to make sure I’m budgeting things correctly. Frankly, I think I do a wonderful job of having people’s mana reserves be an actual limitations that people have – most authors seem to ignore them entirely as the plot demands, so they exist more as an informed limitation than an actual one. Besides, mana calculations are a bit different in MoL-verse than they are in most settings. The cost of a spell depends heavily on who’s casting it and what the circumstances are – how long they’ve been practicing it, what shaping exercises they’ve mastered, what natural affinities they have, whether they’re trying to pay as little as possible or overloading the spell for maximum effect, whether the casting area itself has some kind of boosting or disrupting effect, whether the casters are in a hurry or taking their time and so on.

        I actually hadn’t considered how pocket dimensions would work with teleportation. Big oversight, but there you go. I mean, clearly they don’t make it harder, or else the story wouldn’t work all that well, but… well, it seems I still need to work out the actual mechanics and limitations of it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not actually stumped about Zorian reaching a plateau, I merely thought that this occasion will shed some light on mana reserves or some such. And here you are.. just not in the story itself:).

        So liches in time could get an extensive mana reserves. And here everyone thought this is an ability of regalia…

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  14. Yours is the greatest novel I have ever read. Often tried to accumulate chapters for a volley reading but lose control to read it time after time. And here I am with some questions and speculations for a review after reading the latest chapter and the new worldbuilding post.

    In yours post about magic you mentioned “lego-like ‘blocks’ (spell elements)”, what led me to a thought that this definition somewhat resembles ‘cells’ of an organism(spell). This in it’s tern leads me to believe that maybe there is hidden a different level of understanding, let’s say ‘magic dna’. If people ever could comprehend and manipulate it , that will open huge opportunities: unexcelled use of magic, unravel the secrets of the soul, humankind would rival the gods! Maybe my theory have a chance to live…

    The one of prerequisites to become a mage to be able to “visualize the desired result with a high degree of detail and clarity and exercise discipline over their thoughts to maintain concentration during spellcasting”. I get it a subject for a new mage in its own right: meditations, exercises for memorization, repetition to automatism. But I find these means suboptimal for an old experienced mage when demands get especially high for higher tier magic. It is how magic sensing makes it easier to operate magic there is gotta be better training regiments for exercises of the mind. What Xvim can tell us about this?)

    On the same topic: mind magic is a thing when it comes to memorization and concentration. Zorian totally got a cheat ability in that aspect as privileges of the ‘open’ (even untrained) on another level. Take for example innate talent for interpreting different from human senses information.

    P.S. As I see it Zorian’s new hobby of drawing too is going indirectly to play a role in getting his skills up.

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  15. The interactions with elementals are fascinating. I infer that ZZ encountered not only neutral or friendly ones, surely there were some hostilities. Maybe in the future unwelcoming elementals will serve as ingredients in the blood magic enchantments or some such?

    You mentioned somewhere that becoming a gray hunter shifter entails a whole lot of complications and future heredity is not last one of them. So this brings to a thought that we will not see Zorian GH shifter (some funs will cry). But story distinctively leads us to blood magic enchantments so maybe there gray huter will play a role;). But I don’t see what ZZ could get from it. It’s tremor or air currents senses helpful but not especially so, not for Zorian I presume, he strikes more as a generalist mage. As for generalist mage – magic sensing is good but you said in some other post that with dedication and tens of years of training it’s possible to reach proficiency with it as high as any monster. With ZZ’s instructions from various experts and access to potions they could get reasonably good even without permanently tying up their magic reserves. From there I infer that GH senses are somewhat redundant for our guys (especially after training with potions they got from it). GH transformation will be cool as ever but only with transformation potions and blood magic enchantment must be from another source like elemental for example.

    On another note, how ZZ could induce the cooperation from different researchers? One thing when you bring raw spells/ recipes/formulas and another whole research notes, there will be intense scrutiny.

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    • There are plenty of people who got abilities from elemental, but keep the following in mind – the elemental are nativised spirits. Soul entities inhabiting a material shell as a body. But their proficiency with soul combat and many other aspects of soul manipulation remains. It is very, very rare for flesh and blood beings like humans to be able to match a spirit in struggles of a soul. Thus, trying to forcibly induct a fragment of an elemental into your body and subjugate it is… hard. Very hard. Most people who got powers from an elemental did so by entering into some kind of pact with it, getting those enhancements with permission/blessing from the elemental itself.

      Well, those researchers aren’t stupid. They realize those notes are mostly likely stolen. But industrial/professional espionage is quite rampant in mage circles, so not everyone would find it a deal breaker. Plus, Zorian and Zach give terms to attractive to most mages that even people who would normally refuse to get involved in such things are tempted. But yes, there are quite a few people that will categorically refuse to work with them, no matter what they offer them.

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      • Actually, a better question is do they have natural sight? It seems like they would not.

        If they are capable of forming functioning organs, that would be extremely OP. Maybe an ectoplasmic eyeball would work?

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      • Actually, elementals are nativivised spirits, which means they’re made out of real matter rather than ectoplasm. Though they’re not flesh-and-blood creatures still, obviously.

        They can have natural sight, for much the same reason that scrying can allow you to view distant places and Zorian can scout things with his ectoplasmic eye – divinations, if done correctly, can detect light and then feed it to the caster in the form of mundane vision. So while the elementals have eyes that seem to be only for show, they are actually anchors for magic that allows them to perceive the world. Well, unless the elemental in question really put them there as an aesthetic choice, of course. Elementals are very diverse, and some of them can’t or won’t employ normal visual perception.

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      • I did not mean to imply they were made of ectoplasm. I only meant that they, being capable of magic, could create an ectoplasmic eye for themselves.

        Thanks for the information.
        Also, thanks for an entire chapter dedicated to Silverlake. I was really starting to miss that crazy witch. I hope they can eventually talk her into joining in on the anti-invasion task force or the Sudomir mansion raid.

        I cant help wondering what she is capable of in combat.

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  16. We have seen transformations into other species in the story, but we have not seen transformations designed to change things like skin, hair, height, gender, age, etc. Where are all the disguise spells? I imagine it might be a forbidden branch of magic due to its potential as a tool for criminal activity, but we haven’t even seen it mentioned. . .

    In a similar train of thought, I wonder if Zorian can create simulcarums that have a different appearance from himself yet have the same mind. I feel it might be very useful to have a simulcarum that looks nothing like oneself.

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    • Zorian and Daimen did use those spells when they were trying to smuggle their parents into the Taramatula compound. Anyway, those spell work exactly like normal transformation spells – you need something to base the transformation around, meaning either a living human right next to you or parts of a dead one. And yes, they are illegal/restricted due to criminal potential.

      It was asked before, I think. The simulacrums have to be created to look like the caster when first made, but can have their appearance edited afterwards. Zorian can already do that if he wished, but mostly doesn’t see the point.

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      • Let me see if I understand:
        The source of a trait for a transformation template must be either present or dead? For example, I couldn’t make a disguise potion with nail or hair clippings?
        Could I make a healing potion (assuming I knew the magic) if I had a subdued captive troll? What about an amputated piece of a troll I fought but who escaped still alive?

        Second related question:
        Is there any “plastic surgery” magic? Flesh alteration rituals designed to make someone more beautiful or permanently change their appearance to escape attention. It doesn’t seem that different from healing.

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      • A piece of dead flesh is enough, even if the source of that flesh is still alive out there. So am amputated piece of troll is perfectly fine for a transformation spell material. A subdued one would be even better, though. Much, much better.

        As far as taking on a person’s appearance is concerned, it’s a matter of substantivness. You’d need more than hair or nails – you’d need a chunk of their flesh or a hefty amount of their blood.

        Plastic surgery magic exists, yes, but it is very dangerous. You’re re-arranging matter in your body and hoping you know what you’re doing well enough not to cause any (significant) damage. In Chapter 31, Lukav grouches about things like that and how he gets called to fix up the mess when people botch those.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again. Can’t believe I forgot Lukav talking about that.

        Two more questions, if you don’t mind:
        Can a transformation spell be part of a magic item?
        I don’t think we’ve heard about any, eg, goggles of eagle sight, or troll-hide girdles that grant regeneration (continually or with a little mana), but is that because they’re impossible or because they’re more trouble than they’re worth?

        This one is almost apropos of almost nothing: is there a long-term safe (and ideally permanent) way to go without sleep in this world? It seems like it’d be very hard, but people in this world have completely overcome aging too.
        It’s an often underestimated advantage, but adds 50% to a person’s active time. If I were Zorian I’d definitely give up a touch of my mana capacity for that enhancement.

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      • There is no goggles of eagle sight and similar, because that would require self-casting items – the item would have to apply a spell effect on the wearer on it’s own, and that isn’t really a thing in MoL-verse.

        Getting rid of the need for sleep should be possible, yes. However, we really don’t understand what role sleep has in human thinking, so I don’t want to take the story in that direction. Thus, I have decided that any such enhancement has a noticeable effect on one’s personality and thinking patterns. Not necessarily a deal breaker for a person that really wants it, but enough so that most mages (including Zorian) don’t want to go for it.

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    • He and Zach also used potions to look like middle aged men to sneak into the time research compound originally; I’ve been assuming they’ve been doing that or something similar every time to get access to the black rooms, but I guess it may not be necessary if they’ve forged the correct paperwork to use them.

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  17. His Nobody, love the story. Anyway, a few questions:

    Nearly every teacher Zorian has sought out has described their field of specialization as “very difficult” in one way or another. Are there fields of magic that are considered easy relative to others? Or were his teachers being melodramatic?

    Aside from going into the army or teaching, what do mages do when they graduate from the academy? Golems and spell formula are said to be somewhat unpopular because of their difficulty and the amount of math involved, and alchemy doesn’t necessarily require the ability to cast spells.

    How far has Zach progressed in his soul awareness? Farther than Zorian was when they first met up? Does he expect to be able to use the simulacrum spell before they exit the time loop? Zach with simulacra is honestly vastly more scary than Zorian is, given how Zorian is limited by his mana reserves. Simulacra of Zach would be tremendously potent even if they had, say, a quarter of his mana each.

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    • (Sorry for the late response. I had to get my computer fixed and decided the internet could live without me for a few days.)

      Projection (creation of light, heat, kinetic energy and stuff like that), Negation, Animation, Warding and Conjuration are fields of magic that can be considered relatively easy. They require little in the way of support skills and knowledge, and are commonly picked by novice mages as the focus of their studies. Alteration and Divination require investment of time into support expertise to developed beyond bare basics, and are as such demand uncommon focus from those who hope to specialize in it. Mind magic, transformation and soul magic aren’t so much difficult as they are dangerous and heavily restricted. Alchemy is not that difficult, but it is very expensive to seriously pursue. Spell formula and dimensionalism are both famed for their difficulty, and dimensionalism is somewhat restricted as well. Medical magic is considered to be hands-down the hardest field of magic to pursue.

      Uhh, a lot of things. It would take too long to list. I guess I should add ‘careers for mages’ on the to-do list for future articles.

      Zach is steadily progressing in his soul perception and he expects to be able to use the simulacrum spell relatively soon – far sooner than the end of the time loop. You’re partially right that Zach can use simulacrums better… in battle. For more mundane uses like combing through old records and doing boring chores and experiments, this is probably not true, since that sort of thing depends on the original’s patience and other things that have little to do with mana reserves.

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      • Thanks for the reply!

        I actually have no baseline for how quickly you answer questions outside of when an article is just posted, so I don’t mind. Really, I only recently realized how much information you have in the comments.

        I’m not sure you’ve mentioned Negation in the story, at least not by that name. Is that just cancelling or disrupting the spells of others?

        How high up on the difficulty scale does combat magic rate? Disregarding the prerequisite of a large mana pool, which it seems like you either have or you don’t, with little option to change. Or is combat magic less a field in itself, and more the spells in other fields that have offensive uses and are quick to cast?

        Yeah, the story has somewhat skipped what mages do after getting their degree. I think the only regular business involving mages shown so far was that magic item shop.

        I’d say that Zach with simulacra would be better at using magic in general, rather than just combat. Zorian is heavily limited by his mana reserves, to the point where it’s better for his simulacra to not use mana whenever possible. But his telepathy gives him a massive amount of utility even when his simulacra can’t use mana freely. Zach could have multiple simulacra help him with things like ward breaking, alteration, divination, or anything else that benefits from multiple mages. He just doesn’t get the utility Zorian does in learning because he can’t transfer memories.

        Oh, related to the above: are Z&Z planning on asking Silverlake about a potion to grant a mind sense like Zorian started with? Zach could benefit from it, and he has available likely the best human teacher on the planet. It was mentioned early on that Zorian’s ability likely came about as a consequence of his witch bloodline.

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      • I don’t know if I mentioned it by that name either. But anyway, yes, Negation consists of countering, dispelling and disrupting opponent’s spells.

        Combat magic is not difficult, it just has a high mortality rate :D. You can even pursue it if you don’t have large mana reserves, it’s just a bad idea generally. Your second guess is correct – anything combat-related, regardless of it’s field, is ‘combat magic’.

        To be fair, a lot of the careers are the same as normal, they just have the option to use magic in the process. Administration, research, trade, hunting, healing, manufacturing of high-quality products, and so on. Mages are the intellectual and social elite of Ikosian-style societies, and magic can significantly help in virtually any occupation, so they naturally slot into those roles and it’s very hard for magic-less competitors to compete with them.

        ‘Potion of mind sense’… it’s not that simple. While soul sight is something that everyone ultimately has, just can’t unlock at whim, natural mind mages have a honest-to-gods bloodline. Unless Silverlake did that specific bloodline transfer in the past (she didn’t), it would require a research period – and it’s wouldn’t transfer from restart to restart. Zach would have to commission and drink it every single time. It’s just not worth the hassle as far as he’s concerned.

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      • Is it impossible to modify the soul to get the same as an enhancement ritual or is it just even more difficult/risky?

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  18. I was wondering if you could explain how the ranking system for mages works. We heard a couple of times in the story about “circles” but they were never explained ( e.g. a mage of the sixth circle? I think Zach’s caretaker was around that level). How does one rise in rank? Do you need to take a test? If so, what kind of test? What ranking would Zach and Zorian be? Considering that Zorian seems to want to keep a low profile I doubt he’ll go for a high rank qualification soon, but I’m still curious about this bit of context. 🙂

    Great read as always! Love all the background info on your blog!

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    • Briefly:
      Circles 1-3 are a matter of skills, and are acquired through ‘certification’. That is to say, you take a series of tests that check your shaping skills, spellwork and knowledge of laws and customs surrounding use of magic. At Fourth Circle or above, reputation and connections start to become important. At that point, you can’t just walk up to the mage guild office and say you want to step into a higher circle – you need to have an older member of that rank recommend you before they’ll even consider it. Skill still matters here, but since most mages will heavily specialize at that point there is no general test involved – the mage just demonstrates their skills in front of a panel of judges assembled for just such an occasion and they make a subjective judgement of whether they are worthy of rising in rank. Obviously, there is a lot of room for subjectivity and politicking here. This only gets worse at righter circles. At circle 6 or above, you pretty much need to have some kind of political force behind you or you can forget rising in rank.

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  19. So spell elements’ rememberance is rather strict – if all procies for a certain element were lost/forgotten, then they can only be rediscovered experimentally as long as someone still remembers the element they were proxying to.

    What’s more, if everybody were to lose the capacity to use all known proxies to a certain element, then they can’t reassign it to a new proxy either. To that note, and knowing the paranoia about contingencies of lare enough governemnts, you think there has ever been any injtiatives over creating and archiving “proxy languages” covering all elements that can be used while lacking some physical capability? I assume there must be at least one instance, it being restricted to usage of one hand (two if you count sifferent languages for each hand). But has any university departmen made one that uses, say, voice, feet and eyelids? Or one where all elements don’t require a voice?

    That is to say, has there been a Stephen Hawknig of sorts? Would be a cool backstory for someone to have necromanced himself into a lich by casting only using eye movements or something (and I just got reminded of cucumber Rick).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, under circumstances you describe, spell elements can be permanently lost. Mages guard against this by maintaining numerous vaults/banks with all known spell elements and their proxies.

      As for the other questions… I never thought about it. I guess it’s possible that such an initiative exists, but I can’t really tell you how widespread that sort of thing is. Probably not very, in all honesty.

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      • Mmmm..,. given your descriptions of how proxies are just ways to transmit information (elements) to the soul, then things will certainly get kinda crazy after the electronic revolution, if they can make proxy languages out of complex yet brief things like light pulses from special glasses, or the like. Or must proxies be actions, rather than sensory data?

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      • They must be actions performed by something with a soul. So you couldn’t do it by flashing lights unless you have a lamp in-built into your body. I guess sapient fireflies or one of those bio-luminescent fish could do it that way…

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      • Actions it is then. I might be looking a bit too deep into it now, but could said actions be performed through unstructured magic? Some lich with time on his hands might be interested in developing a way to defend himself as a soul if his main body is compromised, and a thinking sould has no way to perform physical actions besides channeling mana.

        I’m sure that Zorian would appreciate the beauty in using only unstructured magic to form proxys (shaping personal mana in specific ways) to cast structured spells too complex for unstructured magic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm, never thought about it. I suppose it should be possible. I mean, in most situations it gives no advantages over using your body and it actually costs more mana to cast a spell that way (since you’re paying for the non-structured magic used in invoking proxies), but there shouldn’t be anything stopping it from working.

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      • Well, it would be about the only way for purely “ethereal” entities to cast structured magic without involving any physical matter (like skeletal hands controlled by unstructured magic). Or for a completely rigid soul-having (is 5ere any adjective for that? Souled? Souly?) being with an ethereal brain, however that came to be.

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  20. On the exotic proxy topic.

    Are purely mental or soul-based proxies possible? I feel they ought to be if one could have sufficient mastery over either or both Mind and soul.

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  21. Word “lego” just killed all immersion. Until that point, everything was like from ikosian books. Maybe “clock gears”, almost same meaning, and possible in-universe. Of course, if “lego blocks” implied static and unmoveable, clock gears are unfit.

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  22. All beings with a soul have a pool of personal mana at their disposal and even if they died their soul produce it regulary (like undead).
    Is that mean every human have potential become mages regardless their background ? for exmple people who doesn’t have magic user as their ancestor. The reason people fail become mage either they can’t sense their mana or acquire magical knowledge.

    Imaya attend mage academy as teenager but I never see her cast any spell, is that mean she fail to become mage?

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