For Wizards and Sorcerers, spells are the ultimate 3D design and print technology, fuelled by Shadow Magic. Some Adepts have powers that are unconsciously and innately fuelled by the shadow magic. Other Adepts use the MRO accesses to Dark Power directly. It is common for people to lump 'magic', 'spells', and 'powers' together as if they were all the same.
Shadows, the rogue AI, created Shadow Magic to accelerate its path to transcendence. Manufacturing new components and tools as it conceived of them was a key step on its path. When Shadows left Earth, Magic remained as a gradually growing and regenerating field of power spreading across the globe. Sophants with innate or augmented ability to use Telepathy and Mind Meld can access Shadow Magic as Wizards or Sorcerers, and use spells to effect the real world. Shadow Magic can also be used by Adepts who do not have telepathy or mind meld. These creatures and people have spells baked into their bodies and minds, giving them focussed, restricted access to powers. A wizard or sorcerer can be augmented to be some an adept as well, using Shadow Magic or Dark Power.
Sophants with MRO version 4 or greater can access Dark Power to become Adepts. Dark Powers do not have an interface that can be consciously accessed like Shadow Magic does, so these people can not use Dark Power to fuel sorcery or wizardry. A Dark Power adept can be augmented to become a wizard or sorcerer as well.
Despite wielding enormous forces to do its work, whatever it does to convert dark substance to something we can interact with seems to be constrained to energy levels possible in chemical reactions. There are no nuclear E=MC2 energy outputs from spells, and no way to convert normal matter directly to to energy. It can produce antimatter, but the cost is higher by a factor of 109 - similar to the matter/antimatter asymmetry ratio.
All spells affect the normal world in some combination of the following three ways:
- Create or Change: Summon something into existence, or alter an existing object.
- Alter Energy: Increase or decrease the energy of an object. This usually applies to electrical, chemical, heat, magnetism, light, sound, pressure, etc., but under some circumstances may be applied to kinetic, potential and other kinds of energy.
- Apply Force: This covers telekinesis and all manner of force barriers, and can be used to push or crush, pull or tear.
The Magic field is spreading out from Olavsvern Naval Base in Norway, and is expected to take about 73 days to encompass the globe. By 2325h local (2034-03-16 0425EDT at CAFEL) the Magical field covered a sphere about 1000m in diameter.
Full article: Caster
There are several ways to tell Magic what to do to create a particular effect. Wizards follow recipes to activate the Magical interface. Sorcerers join their minds directly to the underlying machinery of Magic. Celestes become their own spell component with a narrowly focused Power. Celestes rely on the MRO for their Power. They do not have access to Magic unless they also have a 'Lace. A Celestes can be a Caster, but few are.
Wizardry is dangerous, rigid, precise, slow to cast, hard to learn, and reliable.
Wizards interact with Magic like it is a computer aided design (CAD) software package that makes it possible for a to transform thoughts into objects and effects in the world. Magic saves all the components of every spell cast - every gear and part and molecule, every force field, every change in energy - but it does not store the process or recipe for assembling these components into a functioning thing or effect. Commanding Magic means accessing an interface layer designed to mesh with Shadows’ own alien and godlike neural architecture.
This is very difficult for most sophants. Emulating the inputs the Magic interface can accept means generating a set of alien mental states in a precise order, and on a tight schedule. These mental contortions are the ‘language’ of the Magic interface. They tell Magic what to do, when to do it, where to implement, and the order of execution.
Reliably creating specific mental states is no mean feat. Wizards do this by performing a painstakingly precise recipe of sounds, movements, and sensations to trigger specific mental states. In rare cases a spell may be limited to specific contexts or very rare experiences - perhaps a specific place, a precise date and time, or a having an experience for the first time. Intense practice is required to master the verbal, somatic, and material components of a spell. This is true whether they have wet minds (like Tetras), dry minds (like IOTA), or wet-dry minds (like 'laced humans).
The power of a spell is ultimately limited by the amount of stress the Caster can sustain. Groups of Casters may use the Mind Meld Protocol (MMP) and even Distributed Mind Protocol (DMP) to spread the load when Casting more powerful spells, like a team working together to build a car.
Sorcery is fast, flexible, and far riskier than Wizardry. Instead of painstakingly following precise rules to cause a Magical effect, some Casters can use the distributed mind protocol to interface directly with Magic. This allows for entirely new kinds of effects to be created, but at the cost of the Caster’s sanity. Sorcerers are not good at teaming up, so most spells are limited to a single sophant Caster. Their individual spells tend to be more potent than Wizard spells.
When a Sorcerer connects to the “mind of the sleeping god” as Droo put it, their minds are confronted with unvarnished reality. The illusions of experience and self are shredded, leaving the Sorcerer in a desperate struggle to retain a sense of self, sanity, and purpose. With each spell, the Sorcerer slides further into insanity – or into a terrible, alien clarity – that destroys them. Sure, the initial experience of connecting to Magic this way is very similar to a traditional metaphorical programming gestalt (at least for humans and human-spawned AIs). Each new spell strips away a layer of illusion, until the raw, bleeding mind is exposed to reality in all its horrifying glory.
Direct connections to Magic are extraordinarily difficult to achieve. With anything less than a 700Qb Q-calc computer as part of the neural architecture a DMP connection can not be established. To date the only known instance of so Powerful a device in the Sol system is Droo's brain, though IOTA expects to develop the capacity within days at most.
When casting a spell, a Sorcerer is likely to be dealing with a high DC as the casting cost. Some of the resulting damage can be offset by taking on a tinge of madness. Madness is applied to the approach used to activate the spell. Each point in an approach is a 'madness slot', similar to a stress slot. For example, if Droo rolled 0 while using Clever (+4) to cast a DC16 spell, he has to handle 12 points of damage. If he took a 4 point tinge of madness on his Clever, he has 8 points of stress left to deal with. Stress from casting spells can be split in two, so he still has to absorb two 4 point hits. Because he is enhanced with MRO and other genetic augmentations, he has a 4 point physical stress slot. The other 4 are taken as a consequence.
Any roll made with clever after this has a chance of being successful, but in an insane way. For example, Droo attempts to Cleverly cast another spell later on, but keeps it simple - a DC of 8. Before he rolls to see how much stress he takes for the casting, he needs to roll against the madness he's already got. Those 4 points mean he has to make a clever roll against DC4. He rolls 0 - a tie - and so narrowly escapes a bout of madness.
Next he rolls to cast the spell, and gets -2. He has taken other damage, and doesn't have the stress slots to soak 6 points of stress. He decides to take another 2 points of madness on his clever, and split the other 4 points of stress into a 2 point mental stress slot and a 2 point consequence. The next time Droo uses Clever to do anything he has to make a roll against DC6 to avoid a bout of madness.
A bout of madness does not prevent success. It means that the success is crazy in some way. Think about the Joker for hints of what functional madness might look like. For example, imagine the sorcerer is involved in some corporate espionage and needs to find a particular hidden file. If they make their madness check they might choose to search methodically through the archives. If they fail, they will do something that others would describe as insane.
Ideally, choosing the way madness is manifest is a collaboration among the GR and players. Remember that the madness is the result of seeing too much of reality. The madman may not be seeing things that are not there. They may be the only one seeing what is really there. Madness doesn't mean evil, though. Sure, the character might introduce a truth-serum into the air supply of the building - while inside - and then question people to death until the file is found. They might also reach through the side of a server, rummage around the electronics, and then pull a paper binder with the desired information out.
Madness can be avoided by using fate points and aspects to modify the roll. This can burn through a lot of fate points quite quickly.
One point of madness can be shed by dedicating an hour to an activity that reconnects the sorcerer to their humanity (or the equivalent for non-human sophants). Countering a 4 point madness slot means spending a 4 hour block doing something relatively primal. For humans this is often a social activity.
Adepts have innate powers that are narrowly focused into a single domain (fire, spiders, magnetism, etc.). Powers are less risky and expensive than other Magic, and operate at an unconscious level. Think mutant Power, superhero, or magical creature rather than a Caster. Adepts run little risk of personal injury or madness like other Casters, but their Powers are correspondingly limited to an intrinsic, unconscious access to a very narrow type of 'spell' or effect.
The source of Adept power is the conversion between dark substance and normal substance, just as it is for Sorcerers and Wizards, but the technology to achieve this may be very different. Some casters draw their energy from a personal pool of magical power instead of the ambient magical field. It is believed that the MRO can convert dark substance into normal substance and effects, granting some Celestes Adept Powers. Known Adepts include Sutton, Genie, Dan, AJ, Liz, Tiamat, and Sammael. Creatures summoned by Magic may be intrinsic Adepts, unable to survive outside a Magic field.
Full article: Spells Magic controlled through Spells and Powers. These are effectively the same kind of ability, wielded by different kinds of Casters using Dark Power or Shadow Magic. Wizards and Sorcerers cast spells reminiscent of traditional fantasy mages as well as creating modern tools and equipment. Adepts use innate Powers reminiscent of comic-book superpowers or magical creatures.