Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Elementalism Clarified, Part II: Associations

Revised format and content on 2/8/09

One of the limiting factors on Elemental magic is the natural affinities and oppositions among the Elements themselves, which restricts the types of elemental combinations that can be attempted by sorcerers.

Compatible Associations: Diads and Triads
neighboring elements shown in the Elements diagram are compatible. This means:
  • They can be used in conjunction with each other without causing harmful interference patterns that disrupt magic.
  • They share similar symbolic languages, meaning that mastering one compatible Element gives a sorcerer insight into mastering one of its partners.
The most common compatible association is the diad. Typical diads include the magical Smith's use of Fire and Metal, the Miner's mystic connection to Earth and Metal, or the Architect's sorcerous talent for shaping Earth and Wood.

Triads are more complex and less common. A true Storm Wizard manipulates Electricity, Air, and Rain, for example. Mastering and balancing a trio of Elements requires talent (in the form of a very flexible mind), study, and practice. These limits do not apply to Dragons! Mature Dragons frequently master Triads; Elder Dragons can master as many elements as they care to study.

Whether Diad or Triad, most sorcerers who wield multiple elements are dominant in one and weaker in the others.

Here are the Primary Triads (so named because they are centered on one of the four Prime Elements, and thus have a stronger synergy):
  • Air, Electricity, and Rain
  • Fire, Electricity, and Metal
  • Earth, Metal, and Wood
  • Water, Wood, and Rain
Here are the Secondary Triads (because they are centered on a secondary element that mixes two other prime elements, and have less synergy as a result):
  • Electricity, Fire, and Air
  • Metal, Fire, and Earth
  • Wood, Earth, and Water
  • Rain, Water, and Air
Incompatible Associations: Oppositions
Elements on opposite sides of the diagram are incompatible. They can be used only to destroy or weaken their opposing element, not to combine with it. For example, Fire and Water are incompatible.

Elements can also be secondarily incompatible. For example, Fire is also incompatible to a lesser degree with Rain and Wood, which form a Triad with Water. One person cannot manipulate these Elements at the same time, and even group efforts are limited, because:
  • They will cause disruptive interference patterns if present and active in the same location.
  • They are based on very different symbolic languages that a human-level intellect cannot comprehend simultaneously. Remember, even mastering a compatible Diad or Triad is a rare gift.
Again, these limitations do not apply as strongly to Dragons. In particular, Elder Dragons are capable of truly remarkable Elemental combinations, though they must manage the resulting interference with great care.

The Prime Oppositions are:
  • Fire vs. Water
  • Earth vs. Air
The Secondary Oppositions are:
  • Fire vs. Water, Rain, and Wood
  • Earth vs. Air, Electricity, and Rain
  • Air vs. Metal, Earth, and Wood
  • Water vs. Electricity, Fire, and Metal
The Tertiary Oppositions are:
  • Metal vs. Air, Rain, and Water
  • Wood vs. Fire, Electricity, and Air
  • Rain vs. Fire, Metal, and Earth
  • Electricity vs. Earth, Wood, and Water
Other Limitations
If you are Bound to an Element, you cannot manipulate any other elements except those directly related to your chosen Element, and even then you do so at a serious penalty. You have immersed yourself in the symbolism and world view of one elemental form and have difficulty stepping outside of that.

In general,
the greater the elemental versatility available to a magic user, the less the intensity of any individual elemental effect. That is, a Firebound individual of equal skill to a Smith is going to be able to produce more intense Fire-related effects than the Smith.

A skilled sorcerer can produce dramatic synergistic effects by blending together compatible elemental forces, however.

The Special Case of Spirit

Manipulating the fundamental, intangible Element of Spirit is a completely different discpline and art than manipulating the Forces and Matter of the other Elements. It is not a technique studied or mastered by the Dragons or their human scions, but it is the foundation of the magic of the Celestial Empire.

1 comment:

Doug said...

I modified this to try to streamline the concepts presented and focus the content on the relationships between the various elements. A bit longer than I would like, but skimmable.