Magic is a thousand-faced beast, capable of producing a seemingly infinite number of different effects, and often the same effect can be produced through several different spellcasting methods. What follows is a basic overview of the types of magic that exist in the Ikosian magical tradition.
Projection: Spells that produce light, sound, heat, physical force, electricity and other forms of energy. A staple of the modern mage due to their extreme utility and ease of use. Mastery of projection is also necessary for advancement in many of the other magical disciplines, since production and manipulation of energies is the foundation which many other spells are based on.
Quite a few mages specialize in this type of magic, and even more have a solid grasp in it despite specializing elsewhere, which makes it easier to find qualified instructors and spellbooks but also makes it harder to earn money in the field.
Negation: Spells that dispel, disrupt or negate other spells. A must-have discipline for every mage, in part because authorities of most nations force mages to attain a certain level of skill in this field if they want to get certified. Mages with absolutely no negation skills cannot terminate their own spells if something goes wrong, cannot ensure proper safety if they try to teach someone magic and in general represent a headache that most authorities would rather not worry about.
With the explosion of mages in modern times, the demand for people capable of dealing with hostile magic and accidents also increased dramatically, which makes negation a relatively popular field of specialization.
Animation: Spells that infuse a portion of the caster’s mind into the target, allowing effects with a measure of autonomy and independence from the caster. Illusions, animated objects, conjured creatures and imperfect copies of the caster all draw heavily from this discipline. Animation spells rely on the caster’s skill and knowledge, and thus cannot perform actions that the caster is not capable of performing. Any time a spell acts on its own towards some goal (such as a magic missile homing in on a target), an element of this is almost certainly used. Animation is typically used on inanimate objects that have no will of their own, but can be used on living beings if the caster is powerful enough or the target doesn’t resist.
Animation is another magical field with many specialists, since it allows people to effectively conjure helpers and improve their productivity in various ways. That said, animation relies heavily on the caster’s base skills to be effective, so most animators also possess one or more mundane skills they work on side-by-side with their animation expertise.
Conjuration: Spells that create ectoplasmic constructs for some purpose. Spells that launch force projectiles, force fields, creation of tangible illusions, instant walls and floating discs are all examples of conjuration. How durable and realistic-looking the ectoplasmic constructs look depends on the skill of the caster. Conjured items and creatures aren’t real and will evaporate into nothing upon destruction, dissolving into a smoke-like form before gradually fading away. Severed parts will likewise evaporate once separated from the core of the conjuration. No one is quite sure what ectoplasm is, and its exact properties are being studied to this very day.
Conjuration is heavily used in combat magic, mostly due to its ability to easily shield against many forms of magic. As a general rule, an ectoplasmic barrier will stop every spell that would be stopped by a brick wall… which is most of them. Force projectiles will also affect targets like a real projectile would have, which is useful when the target is immune to more exotic forms of damage but can still be put down by a brick to the face. Real or ectoplasmic.
That said, conjuration has its peaceful uses. Historically, it has been often used during trickier constructions, allowing people to transport and handle massive stone blocks and other unwieldy things, and even today this is often the case. Fancy cranes are expensive; a conjured hand only costs mana.
Wards: Spells that envelop the entire area and enforce a particular effect on everything inside this domain. Usually protective in nature, hence the name, but some wards react rather violently when the right conditions are triggered. Alarm spells, magic inhibitor zones and spells that resist specific spells, types of magic, environmental extremes and other threats are an example of warding magic. Wards tend to have very long casting times, making them of limited use in combat situations if they had not been applied on the target beforehand. Additionally, different wards interfere with one another, making it tricky to stack multiple ones upon the same target. Most professional warders measure their skill in terms of how many different wards they can stack together and how smoothly they work together – a task that gets drastically more difficult as one adds each additional ward into the project.
Warding is both easy and hard. If one is only interested in casting temporary wards, the field is not too difficult. A fair amount of experimentation and experience is required to figure out how to make multiple wards work together smoothly, but this is nothing unmanageable. Many mages specialize in the field in such a manner, erecting temporary warding zones when employed to do so.
However, while this is a perfectly respectable way to make a living, it is not the most profitable one. The real money lies in the construction of permanent wards, and this requires considerable expertise in spell formula. Since spell formulas are notoriously difficult, this raises the difficulty of the job immensely. Though many professional warders dream of eventually transitioning into the field of permanent wards, very few actually have what it takes to pull it off. This makes this sort of warder extremely well paid, and often reluctant to help others enter the same field and lower the prices.
Divination: Spells that gather and organize information based on the caster’s query. Scrying, magical sight, mapping spells, tracking spells, forensic magic and magic designed to analyze things all fall under this discipline. Divinations require some kind of link to the target of the divination, either a physical object or some of the caster’s memories. They are range-limited – a caster cannot cast a divination on a target that is miles away from them, and the spells that seek a non-specific target will only scan a certain area around the caster before giving up. Divinations that aim to predict the future or reconstruct the past are only guesses based on the clues the spell was presented with, and tend to be unreliable – future prediction more so than past reconstruction.
Divination spells are extremely useful in many facets of life and not terribly difficult to cast. Moreover, divination is not a very mana intensive field, putting a greater emphasis on good shaping skills than the size of one’s mana reserves. Most divination spells are rather cheap for their level. This makes divinations a popular choice amongst those with below-average or average mana reserves. However, divination spells are somewhat unique in that being able to cast a divination spell is no guarantee that it will be useful to you. Interpreting information received from a divination spell can be fiendishly difficult, and can often result in a string of gibberish and a raging headache. Additionally, divination suffers from the so-called ‘garbage in, garbage out’ syndrome – if you feed improper information into your divination spell, or start with an ill-considered reference point, you will get a result that is incorrect or misleading.
None of this stops people from pursuing the field, of course, but it does mean that divination requires an uncommon amount of dedication and discipline from a mage. As such, most diviners are narrowly specialized in divination, neglecting other fields of magic to focus on their chosen discipline. Only the most talented of diviners, or very old ones who are already hitting the point of diminishing returns in their studies, can afford to invest some of their energies into other fields.
Alteration: Spells that restructure existing matter into other configurations. Terrain shaping spells, effects that let the caster warp materials into different shapes and fabrication magic all fall under this discipline. Changes are permanent and cannot be dispelled. Alteration can only shuffle atoms and molecules around, it cannot transmute them into different elements. The ability of the mage to use this type of magic is severely limited by the user’s knowledge of chemistry and material science (and engineering/architecture if sufficiently complex projects are attempted) so advanced transformations remain out of reach for most mages.
Alteration magic is similar to divination, in that it requires an uncommon degree of focus if one plans to specialize in it. This is due to the great deal of scientific and engineering knowledge that one must possess to use the ability effectively. As such, alteration specialists tend to be narrowly specialized in the field and eschew spreading themselves thin by studying other fields of magic in parallel to their primary one.
Dimensionalism: Spells that manipulate space and time. Teleportation, summoning, temporal dilation, phasing, dimensional gates and pocket dimensions all fall under this discipline. Dimensionalism is a notoriously difficult field of magic to practice. The spells require both great quantity of mana, excellent shaping skills and a great deal of complex theoretical knowledge to pull off.
Due to the high difficulty of the field, as well as the incredible potential for abuse many of its spells have, dimensionalism is not taught to beginning mages. Only by practicing other forms of magic may one eventually grow to a point where they can begin to tackle this field. Even then, access to dimensionalism is often restricted along political lines. All of this makes dimensionalism a fairly rare type of magic amongst mages and it’s vanishingly rare for someone to specialize in it – by the time a mage gains access to dimensionalism, they typically already have their primary specialty and are reluctant to change it. Most dimensionalists are mere dabblers.
Transformation Magic: Spells that transform the target into something else, in whole or in part. Shapeshifting and many augmentation spells belong in this discipline. Transformation magic works by applying the so called ‘transformation shell’ over the target’s soul, temporarily altering their form. Thus, it requires both the target and the source of the transformation shell to have a soul in order for it to work.
Transformation magic, although not terribly difficult, can have severe consequences if not done correctly. Additionally, a mage that transformed into a non-humanoid form will find it difficult to cast spells, which is a pretty big drawback no matter how impressive the other form is. As such, transformation is not taught to beginning students in most schools and most mages shy away from it. Thus, it is a rather rare form of magic – few mages dabble in it and specializing in it is not common. Most transformation specialists combine their expertise with alchemy, selling transformation potions to mages that need them for some purpose but don’t want to mess with a potentially dangerous field like that.
Mind Magic: Spells that target the mind. Focuses around manipulating people’s thoughts, emotions, memories, senses and perceptions. Mental illusions, compulsions, memory alteration, mental communication, emotion spells and various other mind-affecting spells fall under this discipline.
Mind magic is not terribly difficult to cast and, like divinations, it puts far greater emphasis on shaping skills than mana reserves. Mind magic is very mana efficient. However, except for the spells that target the minds of animals, mind magic is heavily restricted and has a very poor reputation among mages and civilians alike. Thus, mind magic specialists are very rare.
Soul Magic: Spells that affect the soul. This includes binding them (used to contain unruly spirits or animate the dead), modifying them, enforcing effects on them (curses and geas), connecting them to other souls, and even damaging them in various ways (souls are indestructible and cannot be truly destroyed, but they can be damaged and twisted in various ways). Often simply called necromancy, though technically necromancy refers only to the creation of undead.
Soul magic is impossible to practice without obtaining soul sight, which is an extremely difficult and dangerous process for most people. It is also very, very illegal. Thus, only priests and criminals specialize in it, and it is rare to see mages capable of performing it.
Blood Magic: Magic that deals with the manipulation of a person’s life force, usually using the target’s blood as a proxy. Ritual sacrifice, powering spells through one’s own health, improved enhancement rituals and bloodline theft are all accomplished through blood magic.
Life force is a very potent form of mana, useful for a lot of things. Unlike spending mana, however, spending one’s life force is a pretty big deal – life force recovers extremely slowly and the body will not easily relinquish it to the caster. It must be coaxed or forced into allowing it, and no matter the method used it will result in lasting weakening and sickness that will persist for days or even weeks. Vertigo, exhaustion, lethargy and phantom pains are all typical consequences of life force depletion. Additionally, while losing a little life force from time to time will not permanently affect a person, dipping into one’s life force too deeply or too often will inflict permanent consequences… and it’s hard to know where exactly the limit lies.
All of this means that blood mages dislike using their own life force as a rule, and instead focus on stealing it from others. And this stolen life force is usually used for demon summoning. Because of that, blood magic is very, very illegal – easily on par with soul magic, if not worse. Most countries deliberately suppress information about blood magic, other than warning people that it’s bad and they should never use it. Despite that, the field refuses to die out.
Illusionism: A multi-disciplinary magical discipline that deals with creation of highly realistic magical constructs, in order to deceive, distract or entertain the target. Most illusions are intangible ghosts made out of light and sound, but skilled illusionists can weave additional energies into the image in order to fool various exotic senses or employ conjuration in order to make their illusions tangible. Some illusions also employ mental compulsions to better fool the target, but the very presence of mind magic can alert certain mages that something is wrong, so illusions that use mind magic are not strictly better than those don’t. Some illusions are entirely mental in nature, and do not exist outside the target’s mind, but they are classified as illusions rather than mind magic due to requiring similar illusion-crafting skills to cast. Disbelieving an illusion, contrary to popular belief, does absolutely nothing – the image is real, just not what it appears to be. Most illusions are very delicate, however, and are easy to dispel with magic (and sometimes simple physical force).
Illusionism was once a very popular field of magic, with many practitioners and specialists. This was because mages were rarer in the past, and non-mages had a very fuzzy conception of what magic was and what its limits were. Thus, illusions were a lot more threatening and mysterious than they are today – even an obvious intangible phantom could potentially turn the tide of battle or cow a superstitious peasant into submission. These days, this is no longer true. Obvious illusions will be recognized as such, and even fairly realistic ones will often cause suspicions since people are more familiar with magic. This, along with the fact that illusionism isn’t at all easy to practice, has caused the number of illusionists to greatly decline. The field is unlikely to actually die out, and some illusionists have found great success in applying their skills to entertainment projects, but many mages with fondness for the field lament the current state of the discipline.
Medical Magic: Another multi-disciplinary field, one that deals with diagnosing illnesses via divination and then using a form of alteration to heal wounds, cure diseases and otherwise help the patient. Medical magic requires a great deal of knowledge about human anatomy and various biological processes in order to be effective. It is a very young magical discipline, having been founded only after the gods fell silent and stopped granting their priests healing spells, and even so it took many years for the field to gather sufficient reputation to be taken seriously and attract world-class experts to its banner. Recently it received a huge boost when the Weeping swept across Altazia, which caused many wealthy organizations and individuals to invest heavily into it. Even today, medical magic is used to supplement the more traditional alchemical treatments rather than as a cure for everything.
Medical magic is considered to be hands-down the hardest field of magic to pursue. It requires a massive amount of theoretical knowledge and impeccable shaping skills, its relative youth makes it hard to find qualified teachers and training in it requires living targets. It is almost unheard of for medical mages to practice any form of magic except ones that could somehow support their chosen specialization. It is a common opinion among people that medical magic requires absolutely everything from the practitioner.
That said, medical mages are extremely well paid, so there is never any shortage of candidates clamoring to become one.
Combat Magic: Probably the most well-known and popular field of study that draws upon multiple magical disciplines is combat magic. Conjuring defensive force fields, throwing around fireballs, telekinetically hurling objects at opponents and disintegrating obstacles are all examples of combat magic. Although virtually all magic has some sort of possible combat application, the term ‘combat magic’ normally refers to spells that focus on fast casting time, overcoming the opponent’s defences and which require little preparation to be made effective. Some disciplines are more conductive to this than others: projection, negation, animation and conjuration are the easiest fields to apply to these spellcasting principles, followed by alteration and dimensionalism.
Combat magic is deceptively simple. On one hand, most combat spells have rather modest shaping requirements and can be learned quite quickly by a dedicated mage. On the other hand, the very traits that make these spells so potent in combat inevitably come at the cost of mana efficiency and safety features. Combat magic places extreme demands on the mage’s mana reserves and getting it wrong is more likely to hurt the caster. This, along with the inherently lethal nature of fighting for a living, means that combat magic is considered quite hard to master. Many mages know how to cast a combat spell or two for use in emergencies, but they would not dare call themselves combat mages.
Despite this, combat magic is very common everywhere, and popular as a specialty. Even people who are not very suited for it often direct their energies into the field. Battle has always been the most glorious of occupations to many, and many more don’t get to choose whether they want to fight or not. Most states also enthusiastically encourage people to focus on this discipline, as there is always demand for more battlemages somewhere.
Spell Formula: Used in the creation of permanent wards and magical items, spell formulas anchor spells into a carefully-crafted diagram to make them persist indefinitely. The anchor must be able to withstand the mana being channelled through it and it should not disrupt the spell boundary as much as possible, which may necessitate the use of exotic materials in anchor construction. Spell formula require high knowledge of mathematics and magic theory to use well, though simply copying existing schematics is relatively easy if one is already available.
Spell formula are notoriously difficult. Even copying an existing spell formula can be challenging, requiring high manual dexterity, a lot of patience and an ability to cast and anchor all of the spells necessary to create the final product. Additionally, if a mage wants to modify the diagram even slightly, they need a lot of theoretical knowledge and mathematical expertise to pull it off. As such, spell formula experts tend to be very rare and well paid. A lot of people dabble in it, however, since high demand for spell formula experts makes their services too expensive for many.
Alchemy: One of the few magical disciplines that does not require any sort of shaping skills to use, alchemy is basically magical chemistry – gather the proper ingredients and follow the recipe in order to get a magical product. Medical elixirs and salves, temporary augmentation potions, powerful poisons, mind-affecting brews, exotic alloys and extra-durable construction materials are just some of the examples of what alchemy is capable of.
Alchemy is not a very difficult field to dabble in, but it is very expensive to seriously pursue. The materials for alchemy are not cheap, and neither is equipment. Additionally, alchemy is tightly regulated in most places, as well as already controlled by established alchemical workshops that usually have special access to valuable alchemical ingredients and knowledge of secret methods that make their products cheaper and/or better than any newcomer can possibly be. Thus, mages who decide to specialize in alchemy either come from families already involved with alchemical trade or are exceptionally wealthy and thus able to finance an attempt to break into the field.