Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Worldbuilder's Guide to Aret and Ara, Part Two

The Planar Location of Aret and Ara

So what makes Aretspace so Chaotic, Dangerous and Unnatural? Aretspace is an alternate Prime Material Plane, and like most Prime Material Planes, it ‘borders’ the elemental planes of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. As a result, these things work ‘normally’ on the plane, as they do on ours (in gaming terms, the real world we live in is an alternate Prime Material Plane, an alternate Crystal Sphere or both.) Unlike our world, Aretspace also connects with the elemental plane of magic.
In the theories of planar space used in Dungeons and Dragons and now other forms of role playing, a prime material plane has earth, air, fire, water, light, lightning, ooze etc., because they are in contact with these material planes (and subplanes). An alternate prime material which lacks connection with one of these things would, in theory, lack that thing. These are neat to think about, even if the concept of a prime material plane without, say, air, is probably impossible to play in.
Energy is generally portrayed in these concepts of inner planes as being divided into “positive” and “negative” energy, but if you sincerely look at the concept, each of these planes is essentially a plane of energy, with their various associated matter (if any.) This is vital to understanding how magic is believed to work in Aretspace. Indeed, the elemental plane of magic can be used to describe why magic works differently in different worlds, which should become apparent as it is described.
One of the first laws of magic in Aretspace is that magic is energy, and therefore cannot be created or destroyed, only change form, move from place to place, etc. A mage, doing a spell, taps a source of energy, and either converts it into something (heat, light, fire, etc.) or uses it to open up to another place (such as the elemental plane of fire.) In the cosmology of Aretspace, in order for a mage to have such a power, the Prime Material plane must be ‘pierced’ by one or both of the two ‘poles’ of the elemental plane of magic. Where these poles appear in the plane affects the ‘flavor’ of magic for that alternate prime material plane.
The poles of the elemental plane of magic are chiral. That is to say that energy in one spins clockwise and energy in the other spins counterclockwise. People also have a magical handedness which affects how they learn magic (this will be described later.) Philosophers of magic say that there is, in fact, only one pole of magic, and those planes with two “poles” of magic actually have the same pole, from two different directions, but the fact remains that plane traveling mages have discovered that some alternate material planes have clockwise magic, some planes have counterclockwise magic and some planes have both. Likewise, in some planes, clockwise magic is very strong and counterclockwise magic is less so, or vice versa. These poles are understood as working similarly to how the regular elemental planes work, if you imagine that Fire and Water (and Earth and Air) are opposite poles of the same ‘stuff,’ which can never touch.
In Aretspace, magic flows in equal amounts from both poles, the magic “pierces” the prime material and the two poles are perpendicular to each other, crossing each other in the prime material. This is essentially meaningless to player characters who never leave Aretspace, but becomes quickly important to players who travel to alternate prime material planes. (How much of this is explained to the players is always up the world builder.)
Each campaign world, then, has four pieces of information about the elemental plane of magic that are important to how magic works:
1.       Do one, both, or neither of the “poles” of the elemental plane of magic intersect the world?
2.       Do these intersections happen on the Prime Material Plane or elsewhere?
3.       If there are two poles, are the poles near each other or far away?
4.       If the poles are near each other, do they touch, how, and where?
The answer to the first question tells you whether a world has magic or not, and if the magic of that world comes in different flavors or not. A world with no contact with the elemental plane of magic has no magic in it (it may have clerical/divine magic, which works with different rules.) A mage could bring stored magic into the world from another place, but he could not replace the stored magic once used.
If the world is intersected by only one pole, only the magic which ‘goes the same way’ as the pole works, and the world counts as a null magic area for mages who are oppositely ‘handed’ to that pole. A mage who comes from a place with only clockwise magic who goes into a place with only counterclockwise magic finds his magic ‘canceled out’ when he tries to do anything. A balanced mage (described later) finds his magic only works at a third of the strength.
If the world is intersected by both poles, both counterclockwise and clockwise magic works, although how effectively will depend on the answer to the remaining questions. Most worlds are either crossed by two poles or no poles. Worlds with only one pole tend to have very few mages (they must naturally lean towards that type of magic in order to do it) as a population of the people because those who would want to become mages must have the INT to be a mage, the proper handedness for that world and access to a teacher.
The answer to the second question tells you how magic is accessed on that plane. If, for example, magic crosses the world at the elemental plane of fire, only a character able to access that plane would have magic. Magic would always be fire ‘flavored.’ If, for example, magic only accessed a world on the elemental plane of earth, a mage might be required to use special crystals attuned to that plane to have access to magic. Remember that other planes touch upon the Prime Material, so even if the magic doesn’t touch the Prime Material, it may bleed through nonetheless.
A commonly found arrangement is that the clockwise pole comes into the world through the Positive Material (also called positive energy) plane and the counterclockwise pole comes into the world through the Negative Material Plane. In this instance, clockwise (or right handed) magic is creative, deathless and often seen as aligned with good, and counterclockwise (or left handed) magic is destructive, necromantic and often seen as aligned with evil. This common arrangement would influence The Mad Mage when he designed the Equilibrium (described elsewhere) and is part of the reason why Left-handed magic is often considered ‘evil.’ A world in which the poles touch the prime material in this manner might have “white robed mages” and “black robed mages” who have equal and opposite powers locked into their alignments, or maybe even a third, neutral set of mages who can access both (often with a limit to their total power.)
The answer to the third question determines how stable magical energy is in a world. If the magical poles are distant from each other (including being on separate planes) the magical energy is very stable. In such places wild magic, magic storms, and the like might never happen, or happen very rarely. If the magical poles are close to each other, they draw energy from each other, much like a binary star, and cause there to be storms, areas of chaos and worse. If the poles are close to each other throughout the entire world, especially if they are perfectly parallel, magic may be terribly unstable throughout the entire world as it tries to find a medium and fails.
In fact, the answer to the fourth question makes a major difference in how magic works. While a perfectly parallel set of poles next to each other creates incredibly chaotic but powerful magic throughout an entire world, perpendicular poles will create incredibly powerful magic with localized zones of chaos or null magic throughout an entire world…unless it destroys the world outright the moment the lines cross. In addition, perpendicular poles make ‘neutral’ magic, or the existence of magic which is an even mixture of clockwise and counterclockwise, possible. Usually, some method of containment (The Equilibrium, The Pattern, Magical Fonts, etc.) must exist in these situations to maintain magic in this stasis, because every time the lines uncross and re-cross, there is a chance that the stress will rip the world apart.
These situations combine with magical handedness-a person’s tendency to be more easily able to access clockwise, counter clockwise or balanced magic-to limit who can and cannot become a mage. If a world has all three “types” of magic available, there will usually be very many mages. In summation:
# of poles
Perpendicular or parallel
Location of poles
Example Worlds (see note):
No magic
Magic-free“tech” worlds.
Parallel or close without touching.
Prime material
Extremely chaotic environment, a lot of magic, magic works differently at different times. Magic is in flux, what works once might not work another time. Magic affects even mundane things. Magic may come and go. If truly parallel, the amount of chaotic magic is dependent upon how close the lines are.
Courts of Chaos, Rifts, alternate earth of the Kate Daniels Books
Perpendicular or crossing.
Prime material
Extremely stable environment with regular ‘bursts’ of energy, in form of storms or zones of wild magic the closer one gets to the point where lines cross. Magic follows rules. Magic affects even mundane things. May have containment on magic to limit damage from storms, has areas of strong magic and areas that are magic-poor. If truly perpendicular, storms and other areas of strong, deadly magic come from point of crossing, with rest of areas fairly mild.
Amber, Aret and Ara, Forgotten Realms, Valdemar, Most magical roleplaying worlds.
Prime material
Magic requires being born to it (having the correct handedness) and is extremely rare, it may exist in a parallel world to the ‘real’ world, not being noticed by people who lack the ability to do it.
Lankhmar, Star Wars, the alternate earths of Harry Potter and The Dresden Files.
Positive and Negative Material Planes
Mage magic is rare and is possessed by things that ‘connect’ to these planes, magic may be alignment-linked. Magecraft possessed by all examples of some types of monsters, but not all humans/demihumans. Magic might be only accessible by using “life” or “death” magics (made by drawing energies of life from other beings or the planet.)
Early forms of the Dragonlance setting, Ravenloft.
On elemental planes
Only creatures with access to those elemental planes can do magic, magic is all elemental-based.
The Codex Alera, Magestone, any world where magic requires an elemental ‘focus’ such as water, fire, stones.
‘Elemental plane’ of time
Only forms of magic are based on time travel and/or prescience, contact with present or past.
Doctor Who, Dune.
Notes: Each of these worlds was suggested by people familiar with these worlds, and these should not be taken as an endorsement of this system by the authors/creators of these worlds.

Again, for the vast majority of characters, this information is not important. In general, however, the rules work so that the strongest possible natural resident magic user of a plane is always stronger than the strongest possible “visitor” to that plane, merely because magic works differently on that plane, and having learned in one area is no guarantee of being able to work in one area. The general rule in Aretspace is that Aret-natives take a level and/or ability hit when they travel to other planes and non-native mages visiting Aret do not get a level boost, but find that their spells work as if they were 1-9 levels higher, with a 10% chance of a wild-magic surge resulting from their spell (Roll 1d10). This effect will continue until the mage has spent a few years working on Aret, or has submitted him/herself to testing and training at The School.
On Aret, access to magic is determined by both handedness and access to The Equilibrium. Mages under 9th level usually don’t have to worry about access to The Equilibrium, because it is always in the Mage Protectorates’ best interest to have as large a crop of low-level mages as possible, so low level magics are generally unrestricted. Mages who are trained at The School (or its corollaries in Zent, the Elven Isles, the Bardic University in Harmony, etc.) or whose teachers are affiliated with The School, can generally assume free access to The Equilibrium up to level 8 spells, but mages casting 9th level spells or working at 9th or higher level without a relationship with their Mage-Protectorate can run the risk of getting involved in the sticky politics of Aret.
In order to maintain The Equilibrium, an equal amount of magic must flow from both ‘directions,’ so every high-level magic (such as Wish) cast with the powers of The Equilibrium must simultaneously set off a clockwise and counterclockwise (or as they are called on Aret, Black and White) burst of energy. A Mage-Protectorate could, in theory, stop a high-level use of magic that would screw up The Equilibrium, cause his/her enemies to gain too much power or worked against their own ambitions. For the most part, however, the Mage-Protectorates aren’t going to care, unless the character is using stored magic, or Synergy and its equivalents, to exceed the power of 9th level spells. Players using these magics at such a high level will either want to engage in political discourse with their Mage-Protectorate (or one of the six Mage Regents each Mage Protectorate ‘farms out,’ such decisions to,) or to try to remain ‘under the radar.’
Neutrally-handed, gray or ‘balanced,’ mages have less such troubles, as their Mage-Protectorate is only focused on controlling whether magic works to strengthen The Equilibrium or to weaken it, and doesn’t really care what those under him do, as long as it doesn’t affect the Equilibrium. Since most magic isn’t fully balanced, it doesn’t really matter. Players can always choose a handedness of “Exceptional Balancer” and largely avoid the politics altogether, but most will want to leave it to chance, with the possibility of having as many as two extra spell slots per spell level, depending on roll. These extra spells reflect the fact that magic on Aret saturates everything, and is much easier than magic elsewhere.
The tables used in the Grand Grimoire (the collection of all spells available on Aret) for determining magical handedness are as follows:

Handedness Modifiers:

Status:                                                     Effect on Roll:                                                         Note:
Alignment: Chaotic                                 Subtract 2 from your roll                                        CE,CG,CN, Anarchist
Alignment: Lawful                                  Add 2 to your roll                                                    LG,LE,LN, Unprincipled
Alignment: Good                                    Add 1 to your roll                                                    CG,LG,NG
Alignment: Evil                                       Subtract 1 from your roll                                        CE,LE,NE
Specialist: Conj/Summon                       Subtract 2 from your roll
Specialist:  Divination                             Add 2 to your roll
Specialist: Illusion/Phantasm                 Add 1 to your roll
Specialist: Necromancy                          Subtract 1 from your roll
Specialist: Elementalist                          Add 3 to your roll
Specialist: Wild Magic                            Subtract 3 from your roll
Specialist: Meta Mage                           Roll is 5+1d10                                                         Must be partially balanced
Character is Psionic                                                Add 1 to your roll
Character is Elven                                   Add 1 to your roll
Character is Human                                                Subtract 1 from your roll
WIS stat 18 or higher                             Add 1 to your roll
CHR stat 18 or higher                             Subtract 1 from your roll

Handedness Rolls:

Modified Roll: (d20)                               “Handedness”                                                         Default MP:             Modifiers:               
1 or lower                                               Strong Left (Black or Sinister)                                                Evil                          +2B, -1G, -2W
2-5                                                           Left (Black or Sinister)                                            Evil                          +2B, -2W
6                                                              Balanced Left and Pure Magic                               N or E                      +2B, +1G, -2W
7-9                                                           Normal Pure Magic                                                                Neutral                    -1B, -1W, +2G
10-11                                                       Exceptional Balancer                                              Neutral                    +1G
12-14                                                       Normal Pure Magic                                                                Neutral                    -1B, -1W, +2G
15                                                            Balanced Right and Pure Magic                             N or G                     +2W, +1G, -2B
16-19                                                       Right (White or Dexter)                                          Good                       +2W, -2B
20 or Higher                                            Strong Right (White or Dexter)                              Good                       +2W, -1G, -2B
Affects of Modifiers:
+2: An additional 20% chance to learn spell of same handedness; an additional 2 spell memorization slots of same handedness per magical level (2 extra level one spells, 2 extra level 2 spells, etc.)
+1: An additional 10% chance to learn spell of same handedness; an additional 1 spell memorization slot of same handedness per magical level (1 extra level one spells, 1 extra level 2 spells, etc.)
-1: A 10% penalty to learn spell of opposite handedness
-2: A 20% penalty to learn spell of opposite handedness

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