Liquid Cold and Liquid Heat [GiTO]

Technomagic came from enchanting, to the point where it is impossible to build a technomagic devisement without depending on ancient, time-tested enchanting methods and materials.

The Beyond is a world of magic — magical creatures, magical substances, magical abilities. Many things that are real there are simply impossible in our world. (Or were, until the Emergence.)

Cold, for example, is an active form of energy that negates heat. Where properly aspected magic is strong enough, and the ambient temperature low enough, pools of liquid cold can form. (And when aspected magic is strong enough, and the temperature high enough — in the most torrid of deserts on the hottest days of the year — pools of liquid heat can form.)

Liquid heat is reddish, with swirling golden highlights that glow. It’s a thick sludge, about the consistency of a slurpee or milkshake.

Liquid cold is a clear liquid (barely thicker than water) with thin, white bands swirled in. The white layers reflect light, gleaming and shimmering like sun on snow.

Liquid heat and liquid cold have no temperature: they are energies, in liquid form. (In the Beyond, all energies can be made into liquids and solids, through arcane and difficult means.) They have no temperature, instead they invoke temperature: they cause hotness and coldness in that which they touch.

Liquid heat is inconceivably caustic, causing third-degree burns on contact. A tiny drop will flash ignite any flammable substance (by raising its temperature above the kindling point and causing autoignition). For safety reasons, it is stored in a specially enchanted flask of crystal glass, which insulates the surroundings against the liquid.

Liquid cold is a cryogenic liquid, capable of freezing nearly any mundane substance or object it comes into contact with (akin to liquid nitrogen). A liquid cold spill is invariably devastating, as everything mundane it touches is deep frozen, becoming highly brittle. Any heat energy will negate the cold, causing the fluid to evanesce, so it is typically stored in a vacuum flask (thus insulating it from outside heat), made from a different type of enchanted crystal glass.

When liquid cold and liquid heat come into contact, they both evanesce, becoming energetic heat and cold. If cold predominates, the surroundings grow colder. If there were more liquid heat, they grow hotter.

These liquids are inherently unstable, but both can be made into stable solids.

At the coldest temperature possible, liquid cold can coalesce into a solid. This solid — “perfect ice” — is clear as glass, cool to the touch, remains solid at temperatures far above the boiling point of water (indeed, it can only dissolve in liquid heat), and can be knapped like obsidian or flint.

There is a counterpart to perfect ice, called perfect fire, formed from heat. As a solid, heat is soft, like stiff clay, and looks like a black or dun volcanic rock that dimly glows red. It’s warm to the touch, and a fist-sized chunk can provide enough heat for a person to survive a frigid night in a howling blizzard.

Perfect fire is formed deep in the earth or in volcanos, where the heat and pressure are incredibly intense. Unlike perfect ice, it can’t be knapped, hammered, or permanently shaped — it’s just too soft.

All of the foregoing is impossible. Utterly impossible. But it happens in the Beyond. And, since the Emergence, on Earth.

Enchanters are masters of these and other exotic materials. They must study them, experiment with them, and master their uses. In this case, liquid heat and liquid cold are used to make (respectively) firegold and frostsilver.

Technomagic: “Slow and Steady” Devisements [GiTO]

Most technomages focus on quads — QUick And Dirty Devisements. Using a standard quad kit, they can gin up a circuit in 10-20 minutes. These have several limitations, including low battery life and fragility (it’s easy to knock breadboarded wires loose).

Quads are not intended to be permanent, they are temporary creations for use in exigent circumstances. That said, well-done wiring, a sturdy circuit board, and quality soldering can make a quad as resilient as most electronic devices.

Some devisements, on the other hand, are more-or-less permanent. These are invariably built using “slow and steady” methods.

These require weeks or months of work by a dedicated technomage (as only one craftsmen can work on one devisement), frequently with hazardous substances. (And chemists laugh.) The benefit being that they are far more rugged and reliable, and can be powered with ambient current.

All technomage devisements are built around electrical circuits, and all require a power source of some kind. In most cases, this power source is a fundamental component of the devisement, meaning only a technomage can change the battery. (The first technomagical devisements required it be the same technomage who crafted it, but advances in crafting methods sidestepped that restriction.)

This is obviously quite limiting, especially for items which are meant to be used by non-technomages. Quite recently, technomages developed a way of powering devisements with the ambient energies of a person’s body. (These methods are used in crafting, e.g., shadowjacks and steed collars.)

This method requires two very esoteric substances — firegold and frostsilver — which require special tools to create and work, and which are inherently hazardous. Most “slow and steady” creation methods require a large and well-equipped craft room, which is why the typically nomadic Guns tend to favor quads.

Technomagic [GiTO]

Technomagic comes from Imbuing, and uses that magical Talent in a very strange way (at least to Beyonder ways of thinking.) Whereas enchanting an item (a Wand of Liquid Hope, for example) takes weeks or months, a technomage can create the exact same thing in a few hours, with the proper raw materials.

(These are known as “quick-and-dirty” devisements, or QaDD, pronounced “quad”. Other technomagic devisements take much longer to craft.)

An enchanted item lasts until it’s destroyed, but technomages can take the raw materials used to create one quad and tear them apart, using them in the next. This flexibility seems unnatural to those raised in the Beyond, but is very much appreciated in the chaotic and impoverished Outlaw.

Technomagic – Cracking is possible because electricity can affect magic, creating convergences in the Shadow World. Technomagic works on similar principles. Maguses can cast Flash Fire, and incinerate an opponent. Technomages can do the exact same thing, with the correct devisement.

Technomages use wires to create electric circuits, them imbue those circuits with a small amount of magic, creating a devisement. Each devisement is different — one might allow you to enter a computer construct, another might enhance the strength of a wearer, another might make bullets explode when fired. Once electricity — from a generator, power plant, or battery — is flowing through the circuit (a process the technomage must initialize), the effect comes into existence (and lasts until the power is cut off).

Creating quick and dirty devisements takes a knowledge of the proper circuits and the ability to solder, wrap wires, and screw together a case. Blank wiring boards, wire cutters, batteries, and spools of wire are the tools of the technomage.

Each different effect requires a different circuit, so above all technomages must memorize the several known circuits and what effects they cause. This is especially important because a poorly formed circuit doesn’t just fail to work. It might, or it might feedback on the user or creator, might melt into slag, or do nearly anything else. This is magic, after all, and disasters can be spectacular.

Enchanted items (a magical sword, for example) are permanent (at least until the item is destroyed). Spells are evanescent. Devisements (even quads) are permanent, so long as the circuit is intact and a current is flowing. If the wires are torn loose, or the current is interrupted, the magic fades and can only be re-initialized by a technomage. (In fact, only technomages can switch batteries if they run dry.)

Technomages are at a disadvantage, when compared to maguses. A maguses’ abilities are innate, they cannot be taken away. Nor do they depend on a power source (as the electrical devisements do). They are also more flexible.

At the same time, maguses are at a disadvantage, when compared to technomages. Once a devisement is finished, it can be used without tiring or hurting its wielder. Maguses are not so lucky.

Technomagic is a very new discipline, only discovered in the years after Emergence. The first commercial technomage set up shop 11 years ago, but breadboard kits for technomages (suitable for quick-and-dirty devisements) are less than eight years old. Shadow walkers could read information from computers from the very first time they crossed over, but constructs to protect that data weren’t developed until 9 years ago. And shadowjacks, which revolutionized computer use and cracking, are just three years old.

Technomagic is so new, no one knows what it might eventually be capable of. By increasing the complexity of the circuit and the power flowing through it, ever more powerful effects can be created. If there is a limit to this process, no one can say. Technomagic may eventually be able to duplicate, or exceed, the legendary abilities of the archmages.

The Five Talents on Earth [GiTO]

Each of the five mage Talents has changed, in response to the new conditions, phenomena, and opportunities encountered on Earth. Beyonders — the four intelligent, nonhuman races from that other world — have adapted to the new circumstances, learning new applications of magic and helping Earthers develop their own magical Talents.

We begin with cracking — hacking computers with magic — which illustrates many of the changes in magic that lead to other developments. Cracking is an inextricable result of the interplay between magic and technology.

Cracking — Because of the way electricity and magic interact (gnarly details available upon request), shadow walkers can hack computers without touching the keyboard at all. By entering the Shadow World, they can access a computer directly.

Magical access grants crackers super-user privileges. (To the uninitiated, that means they can do the hell they want.) They don’t need to know passwords, they don’t need to know programming, they don’t need to know the specifics of the interface, they don’t need to hack anything.

This is a problem, so technomages created constructs, technomagical devisements designed to protect a computer from supernatural intrusion. Shadow walkers have to defeat the construct to access the computer.

Constructs are artificial Shadow Realms, and they can look like anything: An estate villa, in Meiji-era Japan. A section of beach at Normandy, circa 1944. A weird technicolor domain of fragrances and swirling lights, something like living in a lava lamp. Anything the construct’s controller can imagine can be implemented.

Cracking Adventures

Anyone can enter a construct, via the right spell, technomagical devisement (called a shadowjack), or spirit power. In the Outlaw, the whole party helps hack a computer: everybody cracks, everybody hacks.

Cracking the construct involves entering the Realm, exploring it, and unlocking its secrets. It’s a lot like raiding a Chartered Company compound or exploring a dungeon. Exactly like it, in fact, as the exact same skills can be used.

To get through a door, you pick the lock just like the real world. To sneak, you use your stealth skill. To shoot, your firearm skill.

Everyone can contribute. Everyone has a role to play.

Crackers, of course, can cheat. They can use their magical Talent to edge around the physics of the construct. To open a door, they can just wave their hands, affecting the artificial realm directly.

Cracking a computer isn’t a solo adventure: it’s fun for the whole party. It’s different every time. Everyone can help, but crackers do it better.

That’s magical hacking in the Outlaw.

Origins of Earthly Magic [GiTO]

Magic has been known and practiced for more than 15,000 years, since before the founding of the Empire of Atlantis. The Five Talents were first discovered among the Atlanteans, and formed the backbone of their strength. It is said that, at the height of their power, there were more archmages in Atlantis than stars in the sky. (But storytellers and songwriters are outrageous liars, and often found in their cups, so this is probably untrue.)

When the empire collapsed, and Atlantis was left uninhabited and demon-haunted (occurring all in a single night, the storytellers say), the four races of Cienvue took up the mantle of magic. For 10,000 years, during the rise and fall of kingdom after kingdom, during periods of drought and famine, during times of war and civil strife, the four races knew the Talents, used the Talents, and plumbed their uttermost depths.

Or so they thought.

On Earth were great workings of mundane craft undreampt of in the imaginations of all the storytellers and songwriters of all the races. Outrageous liars they might be, but none had imagined anything so outrageous as personal computers, electricity, firearms, plastics, automobiles, or cellphones. All of these things were new, and being new they stretched the bounds of what magic was capable of.

In great ways and small ways, the technologies of Earth warped magic. They gave birth to technomagic, which uses imbuing to create new and more flexible devisements (and ways to make them). Cracking, which is computer hacking via the Shadow World. Augments, which use technomagic devisements for augmentations. Technoshamanism, which is sorcery applied to spirits who inhabit machines, vehicles, and other technological works. And last, spellcasting, which hasn’t changed all that much, but the presence of technology allows for rafts of new and interesting spells that can be cast on machines, electronic devices, firearms, and other Earthly inventions.

Taken together, the 14 years since the Emergence has seen more advances, more upset in magical theories and practices than the preceding 14 millennia. No one knows what the end result of this revolution will be, not magicians or priests, not scientists or technicians, and not the storytellers and songwriters. (Outrageous liars though they be.)

Augmentation [GiTO]

Augmentation – Magic flows through our bodies and pools in our chakras. Shadow warriors (those who have developed their augmentation Talent) can tap into their chakras, and use them to augment their natural abilities: making themselves stronger, faster, quieter, and so forth.

In Earther terms, shadow warriors are martial artists with supernatural powers that make them faster than any human could ever be, stronger than a normal human can manage, and quieter than an especially sneaky cumulo-nimbus cloud. Some shadow warriors can hear things from miles off, see through walls, even fly. Their abilities are innate, they require no ritual to activate nor devisement to operate. Shadow warriors are far less versatile than spellcasters and technomages, however.

Developing these abilities requires intense studies and vows. There are dozens of shadow warrior Schools, and each has their own moral code and required vows. Shadow warriors are highly disciplined, and practiced in meditation and physical exercises (which help them master the energies in their chakras).

The Talents On Earth

The five mage Talents have been known for millennia among the Beyonders, and their limits were well understood. Most believed these limits to be intrinsic to the magic itself. The Emergence proved them wrong.

On Earth, each of the Talents found new applications and took new forms. Sorcerers became technoshamans, enchanters became technomages, and the shadow walkers became crackers, magical computer hackers.

I’ll talk about those forms of magic next.

Shadow Walking and Sorcery [GiTO]

The next two Talents are intimately related, as both deal with the realm of mists and shadows known as the Shadow World.

Shadow Walking – Shadow walkers can sense the otherworldly Shadow World, and even project their mind into the mists to traverse its shifting, ethereal terrain (traveling, in spirit, to the many Spirit Realms of the shadows). They can (after much training) even use the ever-shifting mists to discern truths about the natural world and the Shadow World (a technique called divining).

(Most walkers have to study intently to become diviners. Fae are natural diviners, and must study intently to learn shadow walking.)

Technomagical devisements and spells also allow people to enter the Shadow World (but not divine), but walkers can do things in shadow that no one else can. They can find and enter Shadow Realms, and even have a measure of control over the realm itself. They can fight spirits and monsters of the mists, even detect and disrupt burgeoning vortexes.

They can gain information about the material realm, by divining the shifting mists. Diviners can sense from afar, being able to listen to conversations from miles away. They can find lost objects, learn truths about a person or thing, and gather information of all kinds, all by consulting the mists. (This is much easier when they can see the target in the flesh.)

As all magic is of the Shadow World, while divining walkers can sense and disrupt spells, magical items, and the abilities of some Emerged creatures. The mental state of creatures disturbs the energies of the Shadow World, and walkers can see those currents while divining. They can even guess at what emotions or sensations people are feeling. Strangest of all, by divining the mists, they can catch glimpses of purported pasts and possible futures.

Shadow walking is not a conscious, intellectual discipline. It relies entirely on intuition and hunches. It is the rarest of the mage Talents.

Sorcery – The Shadow World is populated by spirits of every variety and description, some hostile, some helpful, others too alien to understand. These spirits dwell in a series of Spirit Realms, or in the mists themselves. Some spirits have emerged from the Shadow World and taken up residence in the physical realm.

Sorcerers have the innate ability to sense, contact, and communicate with spirits. They can summon a spirit from the Shadow World into the physical realm, or banish one back to the mists. Through negotiation or compulsion, they can even gain the aid of spirits, which allows them to do incredible things.

Sorcerers are usually friendly and ingratiating, though often stubborn. They have a quick and subtle mind, and are expert at negotiating contracts, both to insert innocuous clauses which nevertheless undermine the intent of the contract, and to prevent the same. (Spirits are inextricably bound by the terms of a contract, and have a vested interest in being tough and wily negotiators.) Sorcerers who also train as lawyers are respected and hated in courts across the continent.

Tomorrow, Augmentation.