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The Mechanics of Magic


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I didn't want to hijack Khaze'to's awesome Power of Magic thread, but I do have a question regarding magic - or more particularly, mana, in ARR lore.

 

I know we have elemental magics, which are fairly self-explanatory. The energies used to cast associated spells are drawn from natural "currents" of elemental energy flowing through the planet. The caster is simply tapping in and borrowing from that available power.

 

What about non-elemental magic, however? For clarity's sake, we'll call non-elemental magic simply "mana", though for all I know ARR has its own term for it. I'm very new to Final Fantasy lore and have been having a difficult time finding detailed lore resources.

 

Anyway, I've always made it a point in any MMO world I roleplay in to develop at least a personal theory, if not a complete lore understanding (depending on the availability of official information), of the mechanisms behind the utilization of mana for magic. It's great fun for me to try and understand down to the most fundamental mechanisms what a character is doing when they cast a spell, and this level of understanding can help me find new ways to apply the same ideas in  roleplay.

 

So. Is it a kind of ambient power scattered across the world? Is it an innate part of any living organism? Is calling on "mana" an entirely personal venture, drawing from your own reserves, or does one channel energies from around them rather than within? Considering pugilists have a chakra-like concept, it seems to imply that Eorzea has some metaphysical idea of energy flow and energy nodes within an organism's body, and that with enough discipline you can tap into them. But what other applications could this have? Surely implications for the management of one's health and well-being, considering the philosophical history of chakra concepts.

 

Basically, I'm trying to get a handle on the nuts and bolts behind magic in Eorzea. So let us share and discuss!

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There's basically two types of magic in Eorzea, each with a specialization.

 

First, you have Thaumaturgy and it's specialization, Black Magic. Then you have Conjury, and it's specialization of White Magic.

 

Now, Conjury is all about communing with the elements themselves. Conjurers draw Aether (Eorzea's lifeblood, essentially) from the air around them using a staff or a wand, and then use that aether to cast spells or healing magic.

 

Thaumaturgy, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. They use mediums, such a scepters and staves, to draw Aether from within their own bodies. They harness their own energy and channel that through their medium of choice to cast magic.

 

Lastly, mana. You'll honestly get a few different opinions on this most likely. Some feel that mana is just a representation of mental fortitude. The longer you cast, the more mentally drained you find yourself until you reach a point where you simply cannot cast any more and need time to recharge.

 

Then there are people who believe mana is a form of energy that is simply drained as you cast spells and needs to recover over time.

 

Edit: Here's some actual quotes.

 

[align=center]Conjury[/align]

 

"Conjury calls upon the elements of earth, wind, and water and concentrates them to a potency at which spells can be weaved. Through practiced meditation on the essences of creation, conjurers draw forth and absorb aether from their immediate surroundings. A wand or cane made from unworked wood is then utilized to focus the aether until it manifests as the desired spell.

 

Versed also in magicks that restore and strengthen, conjurers are regarded as accomplished healers."

 

[align=center]Thaumaturgy

[align=left]

 

"In the hands of a skilled practitioner, thaumaturgy can be a force of terrifying destruction. At the heart of this school of magic lies the ability to call forth and command the latent aether within oneself through deep introspection.

 

To then mold that aether into sorcery, the thaumaturge makes use of a scepter or staff, within which is housed a medium—a natural stone imbued with magical properties. Thus armed, the thaumaturge is capable of wreaking considerable havoc via ruinous spells and curses."[/align]

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And to add another wrinkle to this, there's a third specialization, the Arcanists. They use what appears to be symbology and writing to channel magical energy through gemstones, and can summon a familiar (Carbunkle). Since Arcanists don't exist in game yet, we don't know what their magic actually does -- but we do know they branch into a healing (Scholar) and a direct damage (Summoner) Job, and that both are based on summoning, after a fashion.

 

Regarding mana, Merri hit it right on the head. There's no real specification in lore about what it is, so it's a big grey area where people can have different perspectives. What mana pools tell us, though, is that more powerful spells can be cast less frequently (as they use more MP) and that there's a finite amount of casting that can be done in any particular length of time. More powerful spellcasters can do more casting for larger effects due to their larger mana pools.

 

EDIT: It occurs to me that I should be a bit more clear. In the above, when I say "mana," I mean "the resource referred to mechanically as MP." We could call it Quintessence, Mana, Resolve, Aether, Inner Strength, Fatigue, etc., but it's basically the "stuff what limits the use of magic."

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Given that your Mana Pool is directly tied to your Mind stat, I could understand it being considered mental fortitude, however how would you explain a Thaumaturge's use of Blizzard spells to effectively restore your depleted mental fortitude, and why does the use of Fire spells completely halt its replenishment? The idea would suggest that casting Blizzard allows the THM to think so clearly, or have such a strong mind, that he never runs out of Mana, while casting Fire makes the THM brain dead.

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Given that your Mana Pool is directly tied to your Mind stat, I could understand it being considered mental fortitude, however how would you explain a Thaumaturge's use of Blizzard spells to effectively restore your depleted mental fortitude, and why does the use of Fire spells completely halt its replenishment? The idea would suggest that casting Blizzard allows the THM to think so clearly, or have such a strong mind, that he never runs out of Mana, while casting Fire makes the THM brain dead.

Piety increased MP-- Mind increases healing!

 

As for Blizzard and Fire; you could explain it that attuning to the ice gives you clarity, which allows you to calm down and focus, using less of your energy to cast. Being attuned to fire makes you more emotional and passionate, thus increasing your damage, but also less focused and therefore increasing your MP usage.

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Given that your Mana Pool is directly tied to your Mind stat, I could understand it being considered mental fortitude, however how would you explain a Thaumaturge's use of Blizzard spells to effectively restore your depleted mental fortitude, and why does the use of Fire spells completely halt its replenishment? The idea would suggest that casting Blizzard allows the THM to think so clearly, or have such a strong mind, that he never runs out of Mana, while casting Fire makes the THM brain dead.

Whilst I'm not knocking the idea at all it did make me think instantly of the Terry Pratchett Trolls, they think faster when they are cold so troll businessmen conduct their meetings in freezers :D

 

Anyway to throw my thought it I normally go with the mental fortitude idea for how magic has an effect on the body in games.  Your point about the spells does raise an interesting question.  I still don't really know enough about lore to go into great depth on these topics.

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Piety increased MP-- Mind increases healing!

 

Does it? I've had it backwards then, it made more sense the other way around. So have a stronger mind makes you better at healing... while being more religious gives you more mana? That's... weird, to say the least.

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Piety increased MP-- Mind increases healing!

 

Does it? I've had it backwards then, it made more sense the other way around. So have a stronger mind makes you better at healing... while being more religious gives you more mana? That's... weird, to say the least.

 

I look at it more as belief in whatever your character feels gives them power-- be it gods, themselves, etc.

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Piety increased MP-- Mind increases healing!

 

Does it? I've had it backwards then, it made more sense the other way around. So have a stronger mind makes you better at healing... while being more religious gives you more mana? That's... weird, to say the least.

 

I look at it more as belief in whatever your character feels gives them power-- be it gods, themselves, etc.

 

Perhaps, but the use of the word Piety bugs me. By definition it's a measure of how religious, or godly, a person is. So by using the word Piety as the statistic for your Mana Pool it then implies that Mana comes from something religious.

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I have to ponder...

 

Aether is an energy source throughout Eorzea. It's something that can be refined and condensed for use as power in technology (i.e. Garlean magitech). Awesome. So it's sourcestone, or oil (or perhaps more appropriate: geothermal energy).

 

So we have aether, which is an external power source, and then we have mana. I posit, entirely theoretically, that mana is fundamentally different than aether in terms of energetics and other physics-related and application traits. Mana could be the magical or life energy that exists within a living organism, while aether is that without and an innate part of the abiotic world.

 

So everyone has mana, though not everyone has the skill or even capability of tapping into their mana (such as the Garleans). I wonder at potential similarities of mana flow in living bodies to spiritual energy flow in Hindu metaphysical philosophies related to chakras and vital points within a body. When one casts a spell utilizing mana from their body, the draining effect may come from pulling on different "chakra" points - or more generically "mana nodes". This could explain the difference between casting fire spells and ice spells in thaumaturgy; perhaps fire spells pull on a very central mana node in their body that serves as a hub sourcing mana to other nodes, but ice spells pull from nodes on the outer reaches of their body, which can thus be continually replenished by the more central nodes.

 

Arcanists are an extremely interesting complication. The geometric shapes they utilize likely act as mathemagical (hah, see what I did there) foci for magical energies - but do they utilize external aether or internal mana... Or perhaps a combination of both! That they can summon representatives from energy makes me think they are pulling at least partially on external aether. I can't wait to learn more about them.

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I think in terms of the game's mechanics and the given name of the various attribute scores, I generally don't ever look too far into the meaning behind the words given.  I don't think characters generally go around asking each other to quantify how strong or how pious they are.  I can't think of any RP exchange where that would have any bearing on an attack either.  Things - at least from my practical experience in the past - are much more reliant on what makes sense.

 

In FFXI I recall that "Attack" power was a factor of the Strength attribute of the character combined with their aptitude with whatever weapon they were using, but if you think about it wholly and logically, more precise hits could potentially do more damage.  Being able to tilt the blade of a weapon to attack a creatures neck would be far more damaging than a strike to its leg, for example.  And this, to me, seems more a factor of manual dexterity than strength.

 

As far as I'm concerned, 'Piety' could have been called anything else - Wisdom, Faith, Willpower, Self-Control, FactorX - and still have the same impact.  I think when looking at it from a RP angle, we shouldn't be getting too hung up on these sort of metrics and how they are named.

 

I don't like to get into philosophical debates about what mana or aether is specifically though, preferring to just regard it as something magical that can loosely be quantified.  It probably doesn't hurt that my character isn't really scientifically-aligned or feel any desire to know how these sort of things work.  It is something of a pet-peeve of mine when theorycrafting happens and others are expected to fall into a particular line of thinking as a result of that.  If it's something that derives specifically from the lore and cannot be disputed, than that's great.  But speculation often breeds dismay and contempt (moreso when others are expected to fall in line with it) and I'd prefer to avoid it where possible from an OOC standpoint.  IC, if a scientifically-oriented character wants to speculate on things like this however I think that is fine and well.  (Sorry for the mini-rant.)

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I like to roleplay sciencey or otherwise intellectual characters, but I also like to give very in depth thought to the mechanics behind actions my characters take, even if they aren't.

 

So, sorry. xD I'm one of those crazy people who crafts up theories on the energetic properties of mana, or the physical implications of changes in mana flow within a body, or...

 

Well. Lots of stuff.

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Well another thing to keep in mind as well is that, whatever Mana is, it is something that can be replenished by drinking a potion (Ether). I suppose however that depending on how you interpret how potions work, it could either be literally giving you more mana, like filling a gas tank, or making your mental acumen stronger so you can focus better (like a mental stimulant). I know some people had different interpretations of how Potions worked as well, such as it either physically healing your wounds, or merely numbing the pain from them.

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No, no, nothing to be sorry for!! I have some pretty convoluted theories about the Garlean war and some unlikely alliances and other political stuff. I just encountered an issue in some RP a couple years ago where a sort of theory was conjured up by someone about what aether is, and while there was nothing to really refute most of the points that were made, there wasn't much to support it either, and there was an expectation on one person's part that everyone acknowledge this.

 

I think it would be like if someone started talking about white magic in terms of cells in the body and stuff. I wouldn't assume that the technology exists to be able to discern that sort of thing. And obviously we know in RL that maybe something like this could be how white magic actually works to repair hurts - but it assumes a knowledge that I don't think should be there.

 

Also I like that not everything can be explained. And that some things truly are just... "magic". :D

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Also I like that not everything can be explained.  And that some things truly are just... "magic".  :D

Haha, as a scientist in real life, "just magic" infuriates me to no end! It's probably why I think so much about the mechanics behind magic in fantasy universes. xD

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Also I like that not everything can be explained.  And that some things truly are just... "magic".  :D

Haha, as a scientist in real life, "just magic" infuriates me to no end! It's probably why I think so much about the mechanics behind magic in fantasy universes. xD

Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

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Also I like that not everything can be explained.  And that some things truly are just... "magic".  :D

Haha, as a scientist in real life, "just magic" infuriates me to no end! It's probably why I think so much about the mechanics behind magic in fantasy universes. xD

Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

Aww man that would be awesome to play someone studying the mechanics of magic.  Brilliant idea.

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Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

 

Playing a magical researcher can definitely be a fun concept, even if the lore in the quests doesn't really clarify anything. What's in the quests so far (through level 15) isn't especially helpful outside of making a few things clear regarding the use and learning of magic (which are described in the other thread :) ).

 

EDIT: But to support Eva's point, the important thing for those who play such concepts is to consider that, unless the lore backs them up, RPing a magical researcher doesn't grant any authority over others' RP. IMO, there's room for lots of students of metaphysics, each with their own theories about the mysteries of the universe. :)

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Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

I fully intend to do this! And in fact my main RP character, though she is an accountant by trade, is a hobbyist in mathematics and conjury (I'll be leveling both conjurer-->white mage and arcanist-->summoner on her). As well, I will be compiling a record of all alchemical or otherwise-related reagents (what they do, habitat requirements, etc) as a resource for roleplayers. Super fun times!

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Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

I fully intend to do this! As well as compile a record of all alchemical or otherwise-related reagents (what they do, habitat requirements, etc) as a resource for roleplayers. Super fun times!

You could interview characters IC to get knowledge of local plants and have an "according to local lore" section for each herb :D

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  • 4 weeks later...

Perhaps a fun way to RP would be to take notes while doing some of the magic-based quests; especially for the CNJ and THM guild specific ones. That way you can RP actively researching it and give us all some answers!

I fully intend to do this! And in fact my main RP character, though she is an accountant by trade, is a hobbyist in mathematics and conjury (I'll be leveling both conjurer-->white mage and arcanist-->summoner on her). As well, I will be compiling a record of all alchemical or otherwise-related reagents (what they do, habitat requirements, etc) as a resource for roleplayers. Super fun times!

Rogier (my main) will be a magical researcher as well. He will be heavily focused on Arcanist and moving towards scholar. I am sure that he would be more than happy to have long winded discussions over how magic works with your character.


 

Also, the way I see Arcanist magic working through the Aether would be

 

 

"Adepts of the art of arcanum derive their might from symbols of power born of geometric techniques hailing from across the southern seas. Held within occult grimoires, these symbols lend shape to the arcanist's aether, thereby allowing him to produce myriad powerful spells.

 

 

Using the selfsame symbols to unlock the latent power contained within gemstones, arcanists are also able to summon forth the familiar known as Carbuncle to carry out their bidding." From the official class web page

 

The Arcanist use their own Aether, but unlike THM they "focus" their Aether through the symbols (kind of like a catalyst) allowing them to create much more powerful spells than they could on their own. Also they use this to tap into the Aether of gemstones and make it manifest itself instead of simply laying dormant. 

 

just my thoughts on the matter, nothing else to back it.

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Xha'li will be a bit of a magical researcher as well, though he'll be focusing primary on Arcanistand later THM, as he wasn't really suited for conjury.  Being inexperienced he'd be inclined to listen to what more studied mages think on the subject though he'd be taking it with a grain of salt preferring to use his own experiences to draw conclusions.

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The thaumaturge class quests state that individuals have "aetheric capacity" that enables them to utilize thaumaturgy. In fact, that's one of the plot points of the questline--the lala brother who became an alchemist and ends up doing A Terrible Thing in order to gain higher capacity.

 

This particular lala's capacity was so low he couldn't cast even the simplest of spells (i.e. even spells with very low MP cost), even if he could learn the method, he wouldn't have the aetheric energy to fuel them.

 

This suggests that aetheric energy is the Eorzean analogue to "mana" in other fantasy settings.

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would now be a good or bad time to mention that I will be writing up IC theses regarding Magic, Aether, and Mana...

 

xD,

 

I will also be following all three classes, so expect them from differing perspectives on that, and how they interact with each other etc etc...

 

would be brilliant to see how other peoples theories work or counter my own.

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