— “Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #81” (1987)
Used without permission.
— “Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #81” (1987)
Used without permission.
— “Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #80” (1987)
Used without permission.
A roleplaying game topic I see regularly is the effect magic’s existence has/should have on historical architecture and, more specifically, their defenses against various threats. Namely, magic’s existence rendering them irrelevant. Some essays include how game masters should rethink/redesign castles, treasure vaults, prisons, et. al.
To me, the solution is obvious: add a nullification of all magic effects to the mundane defenses of any object or location. In short, anti-magic. For this to work, anti-magic needs to be available proportionate to the level of magic in a campaign world. Thus so, historical defenses require no rethinking at all.
The simplest answer is most likely the correct one.
Personal magical defense will be the subject of a later post.
Galen:The answer is still “no.”Dureena:I didn’t say anything.Galen:That was the look you gave me the last time you asked me to teach you what I know. The answer was “no” then, and it is “no” now.Dureena:Why?!Galen:Because there is a time and place for everything, and right now is the wrong time. You want to learn for the worst of all possible reasons: the need for revenge.Dureena:The Drakh killed my entire race! And they will do the same to yours…and you don’t want revenge?!Galen:(sternly) When you have reached the end of the road, then you can decide whether to go to the left or to the right—to fire or to water. If you make those decisions before you have even set foot upon the road, it will take you nowhere. Except to a bad end.Dureena:I don’t understand.Galen:That’s why I said “no.” When you have grown out of your rage then we will talk. Not before.
— “Racing the Night” – Crusade, Season 1 (1999)
Akira:I’m a wizard, mind you! This place is kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings! Harm my flesh and you will have to deal with the dead!Conan:Can you summon demons, wizard?Akira:Yes! To strike at you, I would summon a demon more ferocious than all in Hell!
— “Conan the Barbarian” (1982)
William’s mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was also the most wonderful. She could bring down the moon and make the sun dance with her singing. Flocks of spirits followed her wherever she went; when she worked her magic, so many of them crowded about her that one would think she could barely move.
He loved to watch her work magic. He would sit in a corner, safely out of the way, and fold his arms on his knees and rest his chin on them, and watch while she made the world more beautiful. Sometimes she made medicines, filling them full of light and laughter as well as herbs and simples. Other times she sat at her loom and wove light and shadow into the threads of linen and wool, so that the cloth carried blessing and goodwill, and a little beauty, when it was made into a cloak or a shirt or a gown. And sometimes, though that was not often, she called on the great powers for some purpose that he was too young to understand, summoning the whirlwind and bringing down the lightning.
When he was very small, he had only watched, but as he grew older, she called him to her in the middle of the working, and showed him how to do what she was doing. Once in a while she would even let him do the working. She would tell him what she wanted, and he would do as she had taught him, and brew a medicine or summon a spirit or scry in the silver bowl that she kept, wrapped with great care in a scrap of silk, in her chest to which no one else had the key—because the key was made of magic.
— Rite of Conquest, Chapter 6
[Count Dooku] called upon the Force, gathering it to himself and wrapping himself within it. He breathed it in and held it whirling inside his heart, clenching down upon it until he could feel the spin of the galaxy around him.
Until he became the axis of the Universe.
This was the real power of the dark side, the power he had suspected even as a boy, had sought through his long life until Darth Sidious had shown him that it had been his all along. The dark side didn’t bring him to the center of the universe. It made him the center.
He drew power into his innermost being until the Force itself existed only to serve his will….
Oh, [the two Jedi] were certainly energetic enough, leaping and whirling, raining blows almost at random, cutting chairs to pieces and Force-hurling them in every conceivable direction, while Dooku continued, in his gracefully methodical way, to out-maneuver them so thoroughly it was all he could to do keep from laughing out loud….
They didn’t even comprehend how utterly he dominated the combat. Because they fought as they had been trained, by releasing all desire and allowing the Force to flow through them, they had no hope of countering Dooku’s mastery of Sith techniques….
They allowed the Force to direct them; Dooku directed the Force.
He drew their strikes to his parries, and drove his own ripostes with thrusts of dark power that subtly altered the Jedi’s balance and disrupted their timing. He could have slaughtered both of them as casually as that creature Maul had destroyed the vigos of the Black Sun….
— Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 3
Author’s emphasis is in italics. Mine are in bold.
“To a wizard,” Tenoctris said, “the sun is an ultimate source of power and Malkar is an ultimate source of power. But no one can reach an ultimate source directly. The forces that a wizard works with aren’t pure, any more than the water you drink is pure.”
“You’re saying that Malkar isn’t evil?” Garric said with a frown…. “That you serve Malkar?”
“No,” Tenoctris said, tapping her finger on the wall beside her with sharp emphasis…. “No one serves Malkar. And as for using the forces that stem largely from Malkar, I don’t drink seawater either. There are differences of degree.”
Ilna turned her head to watch the waves dancing in the sunlight. Near shore the water was dark, almost purple, but beyond that and as far as her eye could reach the Inner Sea had a pale green translucence like that of the finest jade. It was much more beautiful than the colorless fluid brought up from a well; but of course no human could drink seawater….
— Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 18
Tenoctris wasn’t a great wizard in the practical sense. She had a scholar’s mind and a jeweler’s soul; large-scale works were for other folk. She saw and understood the forces which had to be shifted; she simply didn’t have the psychic strength to manipulate them.
And perhaps she saw and understood too well. Tenoctris couldn’t possibly have struck the blow that the Hooded One had delivered; but she realized that actions of that magnitude must have consequences beyond those the wizard intended. Consequences that even Tenoctris couldn’t predict….
The Hooded One refused to give his name, but he’d claimed that the chair he brought to Yole with him was the Throne of Malkar. One who sat on the Throne of Malkar became Malkar, became the essence of the black power that was the equal and opposite of the sun.
Tenoctris knew the Hooded One’s throne was a replica, built according to descriptions given by the great magicians of ancient times who claimed to have seen or even sat in it. The original was rumored to be older than mankind; older even than life….
…Tenoctris knew that the Hooded One’s success was a much greater danger [to Yole] than ever [the enemy’s] flame and swords could be. A wizard who used powers beyond human comprehension could not have the judgment to use those powers safely.
— Lord of the Isles, Prologue
The means by which the priestly caste in India gained the mastery over the nobles—gradually, perhaps, but surely and securely—was the awe that they managed to inspire in all around them by the chanting, and apparent power, of their Vedic charms. In the earliest period the gods were implored. But when it was reasoned that since the gods could be conjured to man’s will the power of the conjuring rites must be greater than that of the gods, the deities were no longer implored but compelled to yield their boons to the warrior clans; and the magic of the Brahmins, the knowers of the potent spells, became recognized as the mightiest, and most dangerous, in the world.
— The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, p. 189
The Ancient One:Matter is energy which is all around us. Sorcery is simply the art of wielding that energy….Control the forces around your hands, and limitations become irrelevant.
— “Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme” (2007)
Not eliminated. Just irrelevant.
“You need one more thing,” Elric said.
“I can’t fit another thing,” Galen said, turning to face Elric.
Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher’s acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.
Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen’s hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.
“Associate,” Elric said.
Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its “tail.” Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the staff and connected it to him, and the technology currently within the power of the mages, with which various tools had been built into the staff.
Galen closed his eyes and focused on it, visualized the equation for association.
It awoke, echoing his equation. A subtle vibration of energy slipped into him. The vibration was echoed back by the implants, echoed again by the staff. The echoes came faster, growing stronger and sharper, reflecting back and forth like the ringing of a bell in a bell tower, swelling in rapid reverberation. His mind raced. He didn’t know if he could control it. Wild energies could escape. Elric could be injured. Elric could be disappointed. Galen must figure out how to prevent that. Galen must not allow that….
And what was happening to him?
The energy from the chrysalis had combined with the undercurrent from the implants to produce a surge of nervous anticipation, as if he’d been injected with adrenaline. He’d read of this effect—parallelism, they called it—and knew that mages became accustomed to it, over time.
He recited the prime numbers, silently, deliberately. The orderly progression echoed back to him, calming him. The vibration remained, yet its intensity lessened.
The staff was now a part of him, a new limb. A menu of options appeared in his mind’s eye, reflecting the more traditional part of the staff’s technology. He studied the possibilities. It could control, hold, and channel energies. It could observe; it could record. It could destroy itself, if he deemed necessary.
He closed his eyes, carefully visualizing the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.
Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.
“In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff,” Elric said.
Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. “Thank you.”
“You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed.”
— Casting Shadows, chapter 7
Yoda:Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it; makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you: here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere….
— “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
Emphasis mine. This is the original, understated spirituality of the Star Wars saga.
…But Zarathustra escaped from prison and also from attempts to murder him. He lived to fight many battles against the forces of evil, battles where he pitched his magic powers against the powers of evil sorcerers. Later he became the archetype of the wizard, with a tall hat, cloak of stars and an eagle on his shoulder. Zarathustra was a dangerous, somewhat disconcerting figure, prepared to fight fire with fire.
He led his followers to secluded grottoes, hidden in the forests. There in underground caverns he initiated them. He wanted to provide them with the supernatural powers needed to fight the good fight….
Zarathustra prepared his followers to face Ahriman’s demons, or Asuras, by terrifying initiation ordeals. He who fears death, he said, is already dead.
It was recorded by Menippus, the Greek philosopher of the third century [B.C.E.], who had been initiated by the Mithraic successors of Zarathustra, that, after a period of fasting, mortification and mental exercises performed in solitude, the candidate would be forced to swim across water, then pass through fire and ice. He would be cast into a snake pit, and cut across the chest by a sword, so that blood would flow.
By experiencing the outer limits of fear, the initiate was prepared for the worst that could happen, both in life and after death.
— The Secret History of the World, Chapter 10
Author’s emphases are in italic. Mine are in bold.
Neither angels nor devils, jinn can move in both directions, as is clear from the romance of Sayf al-Kulut and Badiat: they can surpass the devil’s works in wickedness and also act vigorously on behalf of the supreme God and goodness. In the sura called ‘The Jinn’ in the Koran, the jinn tell us, ‘That among us there are the righteous, and there are the less so—of diverse persuasions are we’….
In a plot, the supreme being can act as a narrative force embodied in providence, but there are limits to the spectrum of his behaviour. Even the furious God of the Old Testament does not possess the degree of idiosyncrasy and vitality that less strictly perfect beings, intrinsically various and unruly, can add to a story. It is not simply a question of the devil having the best tunes, but a reflection of the inherent demand that this kind of fairytale storytelling makes: for surprise, for wonder, for astonishment. The Greek myths could imagine gods and goddesses behaving badly and the stories correspondingly fizz with inventive plots: with the fairytale and the tales from [A Thousand And One] Nights this variety and spice, so necessary to a good story, moves out of the ranks of the divine into the intermediate world of spirits.
— Stranger Magic, p. 48
[The] American spiritual temper is…uniquely oriented toward the will. Our soil produces more magicians than mystics. We inherited part of this strong will impulse from a source that most of us now find repellant: the Calvinist religion of the early settlers. According to Calvinism, God likes some people better than others and expresses his approval through earthly gifts. Health, wealth, and happiness are proof of God’s favor. Poverty and suffering are telltale signs of sin. Whether people will be favored or rejected by God is already decided before they are born. Some are predestined to be saved, and some are earmarked for damnation.
Contrary to what you might expect, this peculiar doctrine didn’t plunge its believers into despair or stop them from making an effort. On the contrary, it spurred them on. By working hard, amassing wealth, and keeping their lives in good order, they could prove to themselves and others that they were among the elect. This was the source of the Protestant work ethic.
Nowadays, you don’t find many card-carrying Calvinists. I’ve never met one personally. But I have known many who pursue yoga or Buddhism or even paganism in a Calvinist way. The Calvinist impulse has broken free of its Protestant origins and entered the collective unconscious of Americans. When I spell out its doctrine explicitly, you probably think it’s the dumbest spiritual teaching you ever heard. Yet, at some level, you are almost sure to be influenced by it. Rare is the American who isn’t.
You might say that you don’t believe in predestination, but if you are fond of the phrase “meant to be,” you’re leaning in that direction. If you think that an unhappy marriage, poor health, or money troubles are a sign that you’re on the wrong spiritual track, or that spirituality will fix it, you are making a Calvinist assumption.
In medieval Europe, people looked to the impoverished and emaciated for spiritual teachings. Austerity was the mark of a saint. In America, the prerequisite for any spiritual teacher is a life that works. We don’t turn for guidance to someone who can’t pay their electric bill. Consciously or unconsciously, we assume that the spiritually accomplished lead healthy, prosperous, and well-ordered lives….
— On Becoming an Alchemist, pp. 149-50
In magical theory and practice, [an odic shield is] a field of etheric energy established around the outer edge of the human aura to protect the user from hostile magic or assaults of spirits. Several different methods have been used to establish and maintain an odic shield. The shroud of concealment, which is used in rituals of invisibility, is a closely related phenomenon….
In Golden Dawn magic, [the Shroud of Concealment is] a shell of etheric substance built up around the magician by intensive ritual work that prevents other people from perceiving the magician. The creation of the Shroud of Concealment is fundamental to the Golden Dawn method of magical invisibility….
Chandler Jarrell:What’s this knife?Kala:The Crossed Dagger of Ajanti. They brought it to this world to kill the second Golden Child, the bearer of Justice. His death was a great loss.
— “The Golden Child” (1986)
Unicorn:Don’t look back, and don’t run. You must never run from anything immortal; it attracts their attention.
— “The Last Unicorn” (1982)
“You see,” [Ravenor] remarked, “why I prefer to use my mind with restraint. Here in Queen Mab…indeed everywhere…any manipulation of the warp causes ripples. The more you use such powers, the greater the force of them, then the greater the reaction. I am a weapon against the dark, Beta, but I am also a beacon that summons it. We must keep ourselves guarded and hidden….”
— Penitent, Chapter 19