Sunday, January 23, 2011
Spellcasting 101: Introduction to Magic
If you have played a wizard, priest, bard, shaman, or sorcerer you are familiar with spellcasting. In the worlds of RPGs they are a myriad versions of spellcasting techniques, schools, studies, and disciplines. These range from spellcasters invoking spirits & powers, channeling the ambient magical force of the universe, fuel these effects with the use of their own person power, or tapping into the echoes of creation by rote & formulas.
So what is MAGIC? Defined it is simply "the use of means (spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces." It is the path in which magic is used that makes it very interesting to study, as well as the potential power it can bring.
First off magic itself can be divided into two major parts: Arcane or Divine.Arcane magic is the means in which am individual taps into these supernatural forces on their own. Divine magic is the ability to channel the power of a spirit or deity into a magical effect. The major negative factor with Divine magic is that you can be cut off from its source if you fall into disfavor of the spirit of deity you are channeling. Although there are some forces that do remain neutral, but they often come at a price.
Next we will go into the basic components of an actual spell: Verbal, Somatic, Material. If you are familiar with D&D, these are typical terms... although these terms extend from real world applications of spellcasting (ex. Bell = Somatic, Book = Verbal, and Candle = Material). Every spell uses one or more of these components in order to perform magic.
The Verbal component itself are words of power, chants, incantations, prayers, hymns, or sound used in a spell. Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of the marvel universe, is famous for saying the incantation such as "Let the vapors of the Vishanti drive you from the sight of man! Let the mystic Hosts of Hoggoth prevent you
from ever returning again!". Raistlin Majere uses these words of power from the Magius language "Ast tasark simiralan krynaw" for a sleep spell. . Ravens, a sorcerer for the DC universe, uses this mantra when casting a any spell "Azarath. Metrion. Zinthos". Also in the DC universe, Zatana is well known for her spells to be cast as she recites the intent backwards "emit pots". In Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place, many of the wizards use traditional words of power in conjunction with context sensitive phrase such as "Some are evil, some are kind, but now all must speak their mind". A bard musical song (sung, played, hummed, whistled, etc) is used. A priest while also often say "In the name of "power/spirit/deity" I ask that you allow me to...".
The Somatic component are actions or gestures used in a spell. Dr. Strange of uses a variety of hand positions while invoking his spells . Raistlin Majere sleep spell requires the action of sprinkling the material components in the direction of the target. In Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place and the world of Harry Potter, specific wand gestures (flick, slash, dip, circling, etc) is used. The act of writing runes and glyphs, ringing a bell, dance movements, or even twitching one's nose or bobbing one's head can be enough to fulfill this requirement as well.
Lastly are material components which are items which that support the effect the caste is trying to manifest. There are millions of variations of components, but most follow a common sense rules... spell designed with fire in mine might require a combustible or volatile material or a representation of fire itself. Usually components are consumed upon casting, but some items may be reused again and again. This also includes other categories as well.
-Power Components, which are items that tend to enhance a spellcasting effect (ex. a phoenix feather used in a healing spell may aid in greater healing or black dragon's blood for a more damaging acidic spell).
-Foci, non-consumable items that can be re-used... but traditional a thematic accessory that can be substituted for multiple components..... such as a wand, book, orb, holy symbol, amulet, top hat, staff, etc.
Now keep in mind, that spell can require a combination of any three of these items. Some spell just require a gesture, a magical word, or just the presence of an item to make an effect possible.