Magic: A Structured Approach

The Magical Universe

Assuming that magic exists in the universe has some very far-reaching consequences; it is hard to imagine such a situation not affecting the "normal" physical laws to at least some extent, even though magic is supposed to circumvent these laws. What I have tried to do is to leave the laws as intact as I can, while expanding them into realms beyond the normal domain of science. This means that I have had to repeat some of the science while explaining the magic, but hopefully this is dealt with in a way that all readers will be able to understand.

Dealing with magic in a "textbook" is in some ways similar to dealing with advanced science — authors either describe the subject using lots of mathematical formulae and talk of "tensor calculus" or else they resort to simile and metaphor. I intend to take the latter approach, since I find it more readily understandable myself, and in any case I don't feel up to handling the maths necessary to do the subject justice. The prime metaphor I will use is one that is often given in astronomy books.

The Toy Balloon

Imagine, if you will, that our universe is the outside surface of a cheaply-made toy balloon — perhaps the plaything of some multidimensional entity. If you are a fan of "popular science" books this should give you no trouble, but if you are not you may have to think over the following explanation for a while to get the concept clear.

Our normal Space has three dimensions — forward/backward, left/right, and up/down. We can move quite freely in all these directions (as long as we have the energy and nothing gets in the way). We also move in a fourth dimension, Time, though we can only move onward — into the future. We experience these dimensions, and so can understand them; but what if we need to include another dimension? This is beyond our imagining because it is beyond our experience, but it is a necessary step in explaining both science and magic.

There is, however, a trick we can use to make the situation (partly) imaginable. We can pretend to compress the three dimensions of Space into two — as we do when drawing something — and use the "spare" direction to represent the new dimension. If our "drawing" of the universe is done on plastic, we can stretch it into the shape of a balloon.

This concept is difficult to grasp the first time we encounter it, but once it is understood it becomes much easier to follow the explanations that use this technique — and it is a common one in science books.

The Continuum

The basis of the universe is the Continuum — this is the fabric of which the balloon is made, without which there would be no balloon. According to current scientific theory, the universe is expanding, the galaxies moving further and further apart — the balloon is being "blown up", and as the fabric stretches all the points on the surface move apart. Although the universe is finite, because of the curvature of Space it has no edges — which is to say, if you were to get into a spaceship and travel in a straight line for long enough you would eventually go all the way around the balloon and arrive back where you started, just as people travel all the way round the earth.

This is all in accord with scientific thinking, but there is an extra dimension — a fifth, after Time — which leads radially through the fabric of the balloon. This dimension is the one that causes magic to be operative; it is regarded as a dimension of Consciousness. The scientific concept of SpaceTime is thus extended, and we live in a five-dimensional Space-Time-Consciousness Continuum.

The Dimension of Consciousness

Each of the Spatial dimensions is homogeneous, which means that things appear fundamentally the same wherever they lie on that dimension; if you travel ten miles up the road, you don't change just because you are in a new location. However, the view you see changes, and a building that appears as a small dot at one point can dominate the landscape when seen from a second.

A similar situation applies with the dimension of Consciousness. This is a dangerous name to give it because it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that "higher levels" of consciousness must be better, which is about as true as saying that the further west you travel the better you become. Nonetheless, the name does help to keep in mind that the direction is a nonmaterial one.

Imagine walking past the building mentioned above. At first you can only see the front, but as you move on a side comes into view. Eventually you will reach a point where you can no longer see the front at all, and in the end only the back will be in plain view. If you were shown two photographs, one front view and one back, you might recognise that they were shots of the same building; but it would be hard to be sure.

This is what happens as our awareness travels inward along the direction of consciousness. First the physical world appears somehow shifted, and another facet comes into view; then gradually the physical aspects disappear and we can see only the spiritual.

Most of us never learn to move in this dimension at all, and even those mystics and magicians who do so move mostly within the fabric; but the dimension stretches further inward, from the inside skin of the balloon to the centre, as well as outward. It is possible to continue in these directions; but, like someone who travels down a road and comes to the sea, the new stage of the journey is harder and requires different techniques.

We shall encounter the consciousness dimension again and again in this discussion, but for now this brief overview will have to suffice. There is much more to explain.

Matter, Energy and Mana

For hundreds of years matter and energy were believed to be two separate things. Then came Einstein with his famous equation E=mc2, demonstrating that matter and energy were interchangeable. The Law of Conservation of Mass was superseded by the Law of Conservation of Mass- Energy, but with the discovery of magic the situation is changed again; for there is a third form, called Mana, which is the driving force behind magic. To some this is the fundamental form, to others it is merely "unmanifest" energy, but in either case it needs to be included in the equation. The revised Law thus states,

The total sum of all forms of energy in the universe — whether latent as Mana, manifest as Energy, or bound as Matter — is a constant.

This raises an important point, which is how we define "the universe". The answer — at least for the purposes of this Law — is that the universe consists of everywhere that is filled by the "fabric" of the Continuum — the plastic of the balloon. This implies that Mass-Energy-Mana can be distributed as we wish along the Consciousness dimension, and so in order to keep our physical plane as orderly and scientific as possible I have devised another Law:

Matter and Energy are fixed with respect to the dimension of Consciousness.

This means that, without changing any of the rules, setting the Mana level to Zero causes the theory to collapse back into a description of a scientific universe.

The Distribution of Matter and Energy

Even on the physical plane, the distribution of energy (in all its forms) is very uneven. The vast majority of Space is taken up with a near-total vacuum consisting of the occasional ion and a small amount of Energy known as "background radiation" that serves to keep the general temperature in Space a few degrees above absolute zero; while most energy is concentrated in the widely-separated galaxies, at relative pinpoints called stars.

The most concentrated form of energy is Matter — if you could release the mass-energy from a matchbox you would be able to move mountains. In fact, Matter is so concentrated that it distorts the very fabric of the Continuum — rather as if a finger or blunt pencil were pushed a little way into the balloon — and scientists have discovered that this distortion accounts for many physical phenomena, including the orbits of the planets.

If a cheap toy balloon is handled a lot, then much of the dye used to colour it will rub off, leaving barish patches and fingerprints. Very rarely will this effect extend all the way through the balloon, so there is nearly always some colour left. A similar situation applies to the universe, if we think of Mana as the "dye" of the universe. Near the outside edge much of the Mana has disappeared, replaced by Energy and Matter, but as we move further in the proportion of "unmanifest" energy increases, until we reach the inner edge where there is no naturally- occurring Energy or Matter.

Mana and the Dragon Veins

On the cosmic scale, Mana tends to follow the same distribution patterns as other forms of energy, "pooling" in the dips caused by large quantities of Matter (at least, on this physical plane). As we look closer at these pools, however, we find that it forms patterns just as complex as the Matter with which it is associated. The Mana flows within stars are, of course, a question for theorists and philosophers, but the planetary patterns have become well documented.

Mana within and around a planet tends to form itself into channels, or vessels, in the way that water running off a mountain forms streams and rivers, taking the course of least resistance. Unlike rivers, however, the Mana vessels — or Dragon Veins, as they are sometimes called — tend to be straight, cutting through the body of the planet and stretching out into the atmosphere until gradually fading away into incoherence. The arrangement of these Veins is a mystery; some cut across the surface of the planet almost tangentially, forming the Ley Lines charted by megalithic humanity, while others cut deep into the planet's core. This latter type tends to be the strongest, though for surface dwellers the Ley Lines are the most useful because they are the most accessible.

I should mention at this point the theories of the ancient Chinese Feng-Shui geomancers. These people, from whom I have stolen the term 'Dragon Veins', thought of the straight lines and crossing points as evil, and described good 'Dragon Paths' that were always winding. A possible explanation for this is based on the old idea that power corrupts; they may have tried to avoid the powerful locations, unlike the megalithic societies who utilised the power to their own ends. Echoes of the idea are also to be found along the 'songlines' of aboriginal Australia, and in the long straight carvings of the Nazca and Atacama deserts of Peru.

Mana and the Web of Wyrd

There is another factor that affects the Mana patterns: the presence of Consciousness. Everything has extension in the five dimensions — in Space this is length, breadth and depth, in Time it is duration (or "lifespan"), and in Consciousness it is degree of awareness. Everything is aware to a certain extent — stars, atoms, gas — though in most cases the degree is very small; they are not very conscious. Living things make a leap in awareness, and there is a steady progression to intelligent beings ("sapients"), who have a high degree of awareness. The greater the extension of Consciousness, the more attractive a region of the physical plane becomes for Mana.

Whenever life becomes successful on the surface of a planet, it tends to organise itself into a pattern, or ecosystem. This system alters the Mana flows to such an extent that fine fibres — capillaries — form between the different elements of the system in an incredibly complex pattern, blanketing that part of the planet that is host to life. This does not replace the Ley Lines — indeed, the power that flows along the capillaries is many orders of magnitude less than that found in the Dragon Veins — but the sheer complexity of the system makes it an extremely important source of Mana. Shamanistic cultures that study and use this system call it the net of power, or more evocatively, the Web of Wyrd.

The more Mana threads that attach to a particular entity, the more important that entity becomes to the Web. This tends to happen to beings having a high degree of awareness, since they are more "attractive" to Mana. Sapients are therefore affected particularly strongly by the Web — but they can, in turn, act upon the Web more powerfully than most others.

Sapience and Spirit

In a spider's web, as more and more threads are forced into a small area they lose their coherence as individual threads and form a knot, or 'blob' of gossamer. An exactly analogous thing happens with the Web of Wyrd when the threads gather around and within a sapient; indeed, there is a school of opinion that believes that it is the presence of this Mana blob that causes sapience. The blob is, in this case, the person's Spirit. It has been recognised by many cultures, the most accurate of whom have called it the Chi, the force which gives an individual their vitality — their "life force", if you will. When this spirit interacts with the environment outside of the individual, it is perceived as that person's Aura.

Spirit in the Web

Think again about the spider. Imagine it, sitting at the heart of its web, waiting. If a fly or blown leaf hits the web, the spider will be alerted by vibrations in the web even if it cannot see or hear the thing. It will even be able to tell how big the obstacle is, and whether it is dead or alive. Just so do those who are aware of the Mana patterns use the Web to find out things they would not otherwise know — through "extra-sensory perception".

We can be affected by the Web even when we are not aware of it, of course. If the spider were asleep, its body would still be rocked by the impact of a fly on the web. Nevertheless, not all things are affected to the same extent, for some have fewer or shorter strands leading to the point where they sit, making it less likely that an impact will occur that they will feel. These objects and beings are more "magically resistant" than others.

So far all the connections we have mentioned have been passive, but this is only half the story. The spider may itself set up planned vibrations in its web, or even travel along the strands, apparently "without support" to those who cannot see the web. Just so with the magician, the effects being limited only by imagination and the ability to make the Web behave in the desired fashion — telepathy being a good example, with thoughts being sent as patterns of vibration through the Web.

Spirit and Death

Suppose that one day, our spider dies. Its web remains, gradually becoming more and more tattered as the repairs the spider would have performed remain undone. This, too, is an accurate analogy, for when a creature dies, it leaves behind its Mana pattern as a "ghost" that can still affect events. This ghost does not last forever, but gradually becomes fainter and disperses into the essence from which it was made.

Note that since the existence of a mortal "ghost" does not preclude the presence of an immortal soul, it provides no real evidence for or against an "afterlife" in the religious sense. The spirits summoned at seances are the Mana ghosts, and the reason Mediums are usually unable to call up spirits from centuries past is simply that in most cases the ghosts no longer exist.

There is one way for a ghost to maintain most of its identity after death, and that is through finding a replacement body. Although the body moulds the spirit to a certain extent, much of the personality and some knowledge will remain. This usually occurs only when a foetus or very young child of compatible type is available, and accounts for the phenomenon of reincarnation. Flashbacks and a sense of deja vu are the result of elements of a disintegrating Spirit forming part of the new.

The Application of Aura

The Spirit or Aura is the key to performing magic, for it links Mages into the Mana system, so providing them with "leverage". Some of the most direct applications of this leverage are shown in the actions of the so- called Psychics. For instance, the strong Aura of a psychic healer can muster and enhance the body's forces against illness or injury; or can interact with a weaker Spirit to artificially boost it in order to do the same to another. This Aural interaction can also be used for telepathic communication, providing a nonphysical link that can be exploited to transmit or receive information; or it can interact with the environment in ways not available to the body, enabling someone to detect such things as the presence of water underground, a strong Mana field, and so on. Lastly, although the Spirit is originally created at the body, with training it can be sent out to travel and observe. There are hazards associated with this, for if the Spirit is trapped away from the body, the body will either die or else develop another Aura that will doom the first to a life of exile as it gradually loses coherence.

The Spirit World...

The outer surface of the Universal toy balloon has had some of the Mana rubbed off by manipulation, but the inside surface — the so-called "Spirit World" — has been largely untouched. This is a Mana-rich world of very similar size to our own, but there is no naturally resident matter or energy and so the Mana is of the unstructured variety found in deep space. It is exceptionally malleable in this form, and in general travellers to the Spirit World will either see what their subconscious expects, or else drifting fragments of previous travellers' visions. Furthermore, because the balloon is not perfect, there is a certain amount of osmosis and Spirit-stuff oozes between the two worlds, creating apparent anomalies to plague the psychic investigator.

...And Beyond [Optional]

Unfortunately for neatness, there is more than one toy balloon afloat in the Multiverse. We can contact these other dimensions, too, since they are linked to our own by narrow threads of Mana; but the process is considerably less easy than contacting the Spirit World.

[Note: this aspect can safely be omitted. If it is not present, the Clerics and Demonists described below will not exist either.]

The Magicians

Most sapients can do no more than imagine what Mana must be like, but magicians have learnt to perceive it. However, most choose to perceive only part of it. Some do not notice the other aspects, while some suppose that the other aspects must be just like their chosen part but less efficient or convenient.

It must be noted that the following passages describe the archetypal mage of each type, but there is a wide range of combinations and variants. However, since the classification depends strongly on the personality of the mage, even one who understood intellectually how all the various forms relate would find themselves emotionally incapable of performing magic from every class.

CLERICS find something lacking in their Universe; they feel there should be something beyond, so they focus on the "foreign" threads — the tendrils reaching in from other dimensions. They offer subservience to beings from those dimensions in exchange for power and peace of mind.

DEMONISTS also focus on the foreign threads, as well as the threads leading out of their own Universe, but they do not seek peace of mind. They attempt instead to exploit the resources of the other dimensions — by trade, or by domination.

SORCERORS concentrate on power. They perceive only the Dragon Veins properly, and see the Web of Wyrd as no more than a power source of very little consequence. They do not see the potential locked in its complexity.

SHAMANS live within the bounds of Nature, and so they perceive the complexity of the Web. Like the Sorcerors, however, they do not see that the Dragon Veins are different, so they attempt to justify their presence by regarding the rocks as being alive — just breathing very slowly.

MENTALISTS perceive the Aura, the Chi, more clearly than any other magicians, many believing it to be a function of mind. They regard the Web as being an amalgam of individual Auras, and do not perceive the Dragon Veins at all, although they often subconsciously tap their power.

The Mechanisms Of Magic

Essentials for the Performance of Magic

All that is really required to become a magician is the ability to perceive the Mana. This is something that cannot easily be taught, for it is rather like teaching members of a culture who do not use two- dimensional pictures to recognise themselves in paintings. Sometimes it comes naturally, sometimes it is impossible.

There are three requirements for completing an act of magic:

  1. The objective must be clearly defined. The ability to do this comes with practice, and concentration.
  2. There must be a sufficient quantity of Mana available to achieve the objective. This depends on the kind of magic employed, and on the situation of the spellcaster.
  3. The spellcaster must be capable of handling the necessary amount of Mana. This is a matter of practice and confidence.


There is very little that can be done about the first condition, other than practice; this means that magicians usually need to spend a long time as apprentices before they gain much magical ability.

One of the techniques learnt during this apprenticeship that is intended to enhance the magicians' concentration is that of Meditation, for when mind and body are calm and relaxed, the ability to focus on a particular goal is improved.

Homes of the Magicians

The quantity of Mana available for spellcasting is often what determines where a magician lives.

The homes of Sorcerors are usually positioned on Ley Lines, for easy access to the power of the Veins; and an even more ideal situation is at a Nexus, since here the available power is multiplied tremendously.

Demonists favour the same spots as Sorcerors, since the more power available, the more chance there is of strong capillaries branching into other dimensions. However, they also take notice of the incoming capillaries as well, though this is a secondary consideration.

Clerics take note only of the incoming threads. Places of worship usually spring up around locations where these are particularly strong, and the Clerics mostly live nearby. Their own personal power, however, is at the whim of their gods — thus, they tend to exhibit greater and greater zeal as their desire for power grows.

Shamans wish only to live in places that are not cut off from Nature, and so avoid cities.

Mentalists have no particular preferences as a group, but Telepaths often try to live in isolated places in order that their abilities may not be dulled. Their power grows primarily through their own efforts.

Living on sites well suited to their personal Mana needs does tend to cause problems for mages, especially Sorcerors and Demonists. The main trouble is that they come to rely on a good supply, and so are less inclined to leave home; others might say that this is no bad thing!

Techniques for Improving Magical Control

The third requirement is the one that most seems to encourage ingenuity in magicians, and several techniques have been developed through the ages to aid magicians in controlling greater forces than they would otherwise be able to handle. These tend to fall into two categories: Emotive Highs and Ceremonies.

Emotive highs work on the principle that the controlling power of an aura is increased by strong emotion. Several techniques lend themselves readily to increasing the emotional power of the spellcaster, and all have been tried at some point by inquisitive magicians, but three of the most successful are Blood Sacrifice, Sexual Magic, and Drug Trances. All suffer from the same problem, which is that the stirring of the emotions can distract the magicians and reduce their concentration, so cancelling out any advantages gained. In general, it is true to say that these techniques only work in ideal conditions, and they are incompatible with the meditation prescribed to aid concentration.

Ceremonies are acts of magic in which a group of sapients — amongst whom there is at least one magician — join forces to perform magic. The combined will (or aura) of the group makes control of the Mana much easier for the spellcaster. The main problem with ceremonies is that of keeping the entire group concentrating on the same objective. If this does not happen, the caster or casters can find themselves suddenly stripped of support, and acting as the conduit for many times the power they can safely handle. The results can be catastrophic, as reports of bungled "Black Masses" testify. In order to better control the group will, "Masters of Ceremonies" very often employ Emotive techniques, and Clerics have made a particular art of this, employing Mob Fervour to its best advantage.

Forms for the Casting of Spells

There are no real rules governing the Form of spellcasting — speaking in rhyme, making arcane gestures, following traditional grimoires are all just ways of concentrating the magicians' minds. The only way to cast a spell is to fulfil the three requirements outlined above.

The magicians use their minds (or rather their Auras as directed by their minds) as levers, moving the Mana to act in the way desired. Thus, magicians who were bound, gagged, blindfolded and left to float naked in open space could in theory still cast any spell — at least until they succumbed to their situation. All limitations are caused solely by the individual, but being imperfect all mages are bound by their own personal "Laws of Magic". This is why they are so often concerned with Forms — their minds or Spirits require the form as a kind of crutch, a focus that builds confidence and makes the memorising of spells that much easier. It is also one reason why some "Gods" come to be regarded as capricious!

Magicians are always limited to a small number of Forms, and while new magicians often develop new kinds there are a few that dominate the vast majority of the Magic-Using population.

Chants are probably the most common, with a multitude of variations such as rhyming, using a "magical language", singing, talking backwards, and repetition — usually the chant is performed three times.

Gestures are also very popular, including a special form — dancing.

Symbols, too, are used a lot — mainly in the forms of Runes for wards and the writing of chants, and Circles for the demonists' summonings.

Lastly, Tradition has proven very popular, especially for Rituals, and this has a second function, described in the section on Correspondences.

Techniques to Improve Magical Channels

There are two theories of magic that, while not increasing the Mana available to the spellcasters, do make it easier for the Mana to complete its appointed task. These both act to widen the Magical Channels, which now need to be explained.

Just as self-aware species prove more complex for the naturalist, who must deal with vastly more complex psychological and social situations, so too do they cause extra problems for the researcher of Mana. While the Dragon Veins carry pure power, The Web courses with Mana of a particular kind, associated with life, ecology and fate. The self-aware add complexity, enlarging, diminishing and warping channels between particular objects or conditions, often in such a way that the channels become "polarised", or "semi-permeable", so that magic of one particular kind may flow down a channel easier than magic of another. This can be manipulated to aid the magicians.

The System of Correspondences is one way to use the complexity generated by sapience. There is no physical reason why (for instance) gold should be associated with fire and the sun while silver relates to water and the moon, but years of tradition have connected them by altering their Magical Channels as described above. A spell to create fire will be easier using a golden object as a focusing device because of the channelling, in spite of logic. It must be noted that this effect is negligible for an individual, so that someone seeing a connection between gold and the air (say) would not alter the channeling significantly, though they might see some effect in spellcasting due to an increase in their own confidence! Another problem with the system of Correspondences is that, because it depends on tradition the channels will be different in different lands, and possibly even unrecognisable on other planets or in other dimensions.

The Principle of Contagion is the second way in which magicians can improve Channelling. It states that all things which have once been together remain connected in some way. those who understand the Mana system can see this as a fairly obvious effect of the net of threads, and it is a particularly powerful principle when dealing with the living things of the Web of Wyrd. If, for instance, you chop a branch from a tree, the branch is still connected by threads of spirit to its tree. Many spells are directed at some sort of "Target", for instance another sapient, and if the caster has an item associated with that target then the spell can flow down the channel connecting the two more easily than if no such item were present. This is one of the main methods utilised in Witchcraft and Voodoo, normally with a hair or nail clipping from a human Target.

Intangible things can also improve the channelling; for instance, the theory of True Names. This states that everything has a True Name, and knowledge of that name gives a caster power over the target. This is exaggerating the case. If someone is associated with a name this does provide a link, but there is no single True Name for anyone or anything. Systems of True Names have been developed, but these are aspects of a System of Correspondences and so have the same limitations. On a more mundane level, intangibles such as being able to see the Target also improve the Channelling, but this is purely because the Mana has less far to travel and so suffers less resistance and fewer routing problems.

A Classification Of Magic By Effect

No classification of magic — other than by source — can have any claim to unique rightness, but a classification by effect can often prove more useful. It must be noted that a single magical act can involve more than one class of effect. The seven classes are described below.

Divination and Communication

Into this category falls all magic that has to do with the receiving or transmitting of information — other than purely physical means such as making your voice louder! It primarily relates to those abilities usually associated with psychic sensitives, and can be subdivided into several categories.

This is the ability to read the future, and includes all forms of divination and prophesy.
This involves sensing events that are happening at a distance in the current time-frame.
This is reading the past, including such things as psychometry, where the past history of an object is discovered.
This is the ability to sense things that could not have been discovered through any of the common senses, at any time or place. It includes the passive forms of telepathy and empathy as well as the sensing of danger, or evil, or magic.
This is the broadcasting of thoughts, emotions or other information. It should be noted that (in theory) this can take place over any distance and across any boundaries, under the right circumstances. Thus, this would be used by demonists and clerics to broadcast their desires/prayers across the dimensions.

Spirit Mastery

This is the art of manipulating auras — without regarding them as a conduit for mental energies. Again, there are several categories.

Astral Loosening and Binding
Astral loosening is the art of weakening the ties between flesh and spirit, so that (for instance) the caster may travel in spirit-form, or the spirit of a living being may be summoned. Binding is the opposite; it can be a form of possession, but may also act to restore an Astral Traveller to their normal state.
Aural Manipulation
This is the means by which a spirit-form may travel. It also enables the quality of the aura to be altered, so that a user of ESP would regard the altered one as something different.
Cursing and Blessing
Here, the threads that enter a creature or object are subtly altered in ways that force certain things to happen. Thus, a Geas may be placed upon someone, or a link forged between two otherwise unconnected items, or something's luck changed for better or worse. It is also the method used to inflict or cure magical illness, for the threads can be altered to make someone exceptionally vulnerable to attack by disease, or to make them resistant.
Disruption and Enhancement
One aspect of this is when the caster enhances the aura of another with their own, and directs the enhanced aura to attack whatever problem the target's body is suffering from — in other words, a healing spell. Similarly, the caster can leech energy from another's aura for their own personal use, and in this case the target suffers from listlessness or worse, depending on the amount of energy stolen.


This is one of the simplest categories, being the prime object of enchantment and hypnotism. Difficulty (for the caster) depends on how complex the command is for the target to perform, and on whether or not the action goes against the target's nature. In general, instructions involving actions are less costly than ones involving changes of attitude.


Illusion is a fairly self explanatory term, but it must be emphasised that the illusions have no physical reality, but rather are entirely in the minds of the targets. This means that a film of a (visual) illusion would show nothing, even though the camera operator could swear that they saw it. The difficulty of an illusion depends on several factors:

Familiarity of the image
The caster can never cast an illusion of something he or she has not encountered!
Magnitude of the image
For instance, a dragon would be harder than a spider, and a trumpet voluntary harder than a lute solo.
Complexity of the image
20 different animals would be harder than 20 wolves, and the taste of a banquet harder than the taste of an orchard- full of apples.
Senses affected
Obviously the more senses used, the harder the illusion will be to both cast and pierce.

Material Alteration

All magic dealing primarily with matter comes under this category, which is thus very large. One division is by type of alteration.

Creation and Destruction
Since this breaks a fundamental physical law, it is one of the hardest forms.
Size Change
This breaks the same law, but to a lesser extent, and the caster's problems are eased because the creation involved in growth is merely a matter of copying from stuff that already exists.
Shape-changing is one of the easiest forms, as long as the material content of the object transformed remains constant in both quantity and type.
This is the conversion of one substance into another. The alchemical Inertia factors of substances come into play, for some are more difficult to affect magically than others.
This adds complexity, for either physical means of animation need to be provided or else it is equivalent to constant use of transformation or locomotion.
Adding or changing movement is again difficult, for it too involves breaking conservation laws.
The changing of an object's position can, curiously enough, be performed without breaking any conservation laws. This is not usually the case, however, for there is usually a change in either the potential or kinetic energy of the teleported object.

It must be noted that some things require greater delicacy of handling than others; for instance, small changes can make big differences to weather, but they have to be carefully selected. This is also the reason for changes being more difficult when they involve living things. Power and delicacy of touch are characteristics of different styles of mage.


Protection spells come in a variety of forms, but fall basically into two categories: protection against magic of some kind, and protection against physical assault or other physical hardship.


This last category is unusual, in that it is the only one that cannot be used on its own. It is the art of imbedding magic into physical objects, as practiced primarily by Alchemists. In theory any spell can be imbedded into any object, but some spells are more difficult to imbed than others and every substance has a magical "Inertia", which makes some items more resistant to imbedding. Any kind of material can be used, however; this is how magical potions, creams and gases are produced as well as such things as swords.

About This Article

What is Magic? How does it work? Why is it that 90% of fantasy authors ignore the workings of magic entirely while the remaining 10% come up with systems that are totally incompatible, or else too vague to really explain anything?

These are some of the questions that have nagged at the back of my brain since childhood, and for years I despaired of ever being able to do anything about it. Two things changed my mind, and the result is the booklet you hold in your hands. It was written for my own benefit, and if it holds no interest for anyone else it will still have served a purpose; but if others find it useful, all the better.

When I was young, all magic seemed to be of the "point-and-fire" variety — the genie stamped its foot and a train appeared; Doctor Strange gestured and bolts of energy flew at his foe; even the witches who spent long hours stirring their cauldrons never actually did anything with the contents. After a while, more structured approaches appeared in some books, notably Ursula LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea, and gradually this trickle became... a large trickle. I became frustrated; if all magic was performed through knowledge of True Names, how could James Blish base his Black Easter on the premise that all magic was accomplished indirectly, through control of demons? Why did Piers Anthony state in Split Infinity that every magician needed a unique method of spellcasting? I understood the literary reasons, but I still wanted more. I fiddled with ideas, trying to come up with a system that could encompass all (or at least most) of the methods described, but nothing I devised seemed really satisfactory. For a while, I abandoned the attempt.

Around Christmas 1987, I was doing some research on the Anglo-Saxons for a proposed adventure game (which, ironically, was never used) when I came upon a novel in a second hand bookshop — The Web of Wyrd, by Brian Bates. This was the story of an Anglo-Saxon sorceror, a Shaman. I was amazed; before this the closest I had come to shamanism was in character classes of certain roleplaying games, where they had appeared to be no more than ordinary users of magic who concentrated on nature and the spirit world (though Runequest tried harder than most). In this book, their methods were different, and their attitudes even more so. This should have made my task harder, but instead it gave me the idea that the variation among magical methods was caused by differing attitudes of the magicians. The chase was on again.

Later that same year, I acquired Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy — again second hand, and largely on the strength of the back-cover blurb. The claims proved true; it presented an extremely logical set of Magical Laws covering a fair variety of magical styles... not including shamanism. I still had plenty of work to do, but I now had all the elements of my system and a good example of how to go about putting them together. The work broke down easily into 3 parts;

  1. A Magical Universe to provide the opportunity and power to use magic;
  2. A set of general guidelines on how to make magic work;
  3. And a detailing of the different styles of magician.

By Summer 1989, I had produced two summaries of my ideas; the second of these was well received by friends who read it, and the system was nearly arranged to my satisfaction. I then bought Gerald Schueler's Enochian Physics, where, to my chagrin, many of my carefully devised ideas were explained as part of a system begun in the 16th century! Still, there's nothing new under the sun, and the Enochian version was directed purely at practicing magicians; so I adjusted one of my concepts (which was handled better in the book) and continued.

And there you have it. Looking at the text now, some of it seems naive; but I was in my late teens and early twenties when I wrote most of it, so that is understandable. I may come back to it and revise things later...

This page originally found at
Last updated: 14 March 2002

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