Limits of Magic in Tremanac | World Anvil

Limits of Magic


Magic is power. It can change the world around us. It can change how we or others perceive things. It can change how people feel and act, both directly and indirectly. It can make dreams real and nightmares come to life. In short, acquiring magic is a path to achieving your ambitions.  
In the past, spellcasters of the arcane variety were persecuted because magic could let them realise their dreams. Others resented the ease with which wizards could perform mundane tasks, or were fearful of what they might do with magic. While the jealousy has never gone away, much of the fear has and, as many of you wil know, the study of magic is actively encouraged.
This lecture was introduced in response to a high mortality rate at the colleges. The rate didn't drop but it at least showed the colleges were doing something
  So what changed? Was it greater tolerance? Was it a recognition that spellcasters are no better or worse than those who cannot use magic? Was it the fact that magic can help increase the prosperity of land? No. It was none of these things. The study of magic is accepted, and wizards tolerated because those in authority have come to realise one simple truth. A truth that you must also come to know. Magic. Has. Limits.  
The honour of delivering this lecture was generally awarded to whomever had most annoyed the head of a college
While many of you will prefer the flashier courses that involve flinging fire or lightning around the room, this lecture is required for all spellcaster, regardless of discipline as it relates to your very survival. You can do a lot with magic, but only if you know what the limits are, both in the spells you are using and in what you yourself can handle.
  I do not intend to bore you by repeating the contents of The Nature of Magic. If you haven't absorbed the lessons from that venerable tome than there is little help for you. What we will be discussing today is how what you can achieve is limited by your mental capacity and your level of influence over others.  

Mental Capacity

The casting of a spell takes a toll on your mind and body. The more powerful the magic, the greater the strain. All very obvious but keep in the that regardless of our heritage we all have one thing in common. Our minds restrict what we can do to stop us hurting ourselves. Trying to cast a spell that requires more power than you can muster will fail. Nowhere is the danger of this more apparant than on the battlefield.   All of you will know at least one simple spell for self defence, and I am quite sure that most of you will be convinced that you could cast this indefinitely. But have you tried? You may be able to keep casting continuously for a minute, perhaps 5 or even 10 minutes, but over time the casting will take it's toll. You will lose concentration, or misspeak a syllable or mistime a gesture. Your spell will fail and in that instant you are dead.  
At this point a lecturer traditionally selects an apprentice who has either fallen asleep or has caused some other offence and has them cast basic spells till they exhaust themselves.
  Experienced war mages understand this limitation and the need to train their bodies and minds so that they can keep casting throughout a battle. However, even the most conditioned of war mage can't keep up continuous casting for more than a few hours. A few hours, when a battle can rage on for half a day. And that is few hours of casting basic spells that have a limited impact on the battlefield.   You will have noticed that i have so far talked about basic spells. The kind that have limited power and spread. Keep in ind that these spells make you about as useful as an archer. Yes you heard me. Archer. Singular. You may not need ammunition, which could make you more popular with some military leaders. But do you want to be considered as no better than archer. Of course not, and most generals don't want that from you either.  
Where a mage really shines is in using more powerful spells to spread death and fear. However, those more powerful spells are draining, if you can cast them at all. You need to grasp how often you can cast such spells with time to recover. Throwing such spells around wildly may look impressive for a few minutes but if you want to influence a battlefield you need to know when to cast. And you need to stay safe while doing so. Not even the best battlemages can track the flow of battle, stay safe, and cast all at the same time. So you need other people to be effective.
It was only after Phorm created his now ubiquitous formula that mages were able to devise less draining spells.


By this point you should have started to understand that you cannot do everything on your own. You need other peoples' support to be able to unleash your full power. To this end the most successful mages cultivate influence over others.   There are of course magical methods for gaining influence over others. However, these tend to be limited in either the degree of control or the number of people they can effect. Hopefully you also realise that many such spells are also illegal, but I am not here to communicate. My objective is help you understand that these spells are ultimately limited.   There have been several mages who have tried to gain influence through such spells over the centuries but each and every one has met a most unpleasant end as they forgot one simple truth. You can control some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all of the time. As soon as someone resists a spell or avoids the casting there is the seed for a rebellion. The only safe way to exert influence is through use of non-magical skills.   The use of alternative skills to guide others is certainly not out of reach of spellcasters such as yourselves. So then why are there no magocracies? Why do mages serve rather than rule? The asnwer is simple. Time. Every moment you spend on gaining influence is time you could be spending on mastering your craft and vice versa.  
Despite what some may think the Colleges of Magic do not rule. They advise. They act as a check on ambition and greed, but the colleges do not rule.
Aside from the time spent gaining power over people there is also the oft overlooked effort required to rule. Several powerful mages have attempted to take over a country with the aim of obtaining the freedom and resources to pursue their research. Even the infamous Oliver fell into this trap, only later finding out that ruling took so much of his time that there was no room for research. And that is even with an undead's capabilities.
  If even a lich is limited by the number of glasses in a day then what does that mean for what a mortal spellcaster can achieve. Each of his has limits in what we can achieve. You can master the craft or you can gain power over people. Each requires time and effort, but do not make the mistake that mastering one will lead to mastering the other. An understanding of one can help with the other ins mall ways but each is very much a lifetime's work in itself.  


There is of course another course for gaining power over people and imposing your will. The path of fear. Magic is mysterious to the average person so it is not hard to generate fear with it's use. A simple blast of fire can be all that is needed to intimidate a group of non-casters but fear can be a dangerous tool.   Not everyone reacts to fear in the same way. Some may be cowed but others may respond differently. A display of greater power may induce more fear, but that can be a risk in itself. Those that you attempt to intimidate may look for weaknesses in your more powerful spells, and there are many for them to choose from. A fireball may be impressive but those you seek to intimidate may take note of how often you cast it or other more powerful spells. A lack of magical knowledge does not necessarily equate to a lack of intelligence and it won't take long for others to learn your limits.   Your limits can severely tested by those who weren't cowed as you will have to be constantly on guard. There is no perfect defensive spell. Magic can deflect a spell. It can help you anticipate an attack, or help you take pre-emptive steps. But it cannot protect you from every danger.   A dagger to the back or a simple poison can kill you more easily than a spell so the constant casting of protection and warding spells becomes necessary. As we've already discussed, casting repeatedly is tiring and it gets even more so when you are also watching for signs of an attack. This is what brought down the Ascendant Casters after they took over Balri. Months of not being able to relax and constantly casting spells eventually wore out their diviners and abjurers, allowing a few disgruntled servants to take their revenge.  


Magic may grant power. It may allow you gain to influence. I can allow you to motivate others through fear. But it does not make you all powerful. You have limits and those opposing you can exploit those limits.   In order to prosper when using magic you must first understand the limitations of you own mind and body and train to increase your limits. You must understand how to influence others so that you can make best use of your spells. You must learn how and when to cast to maximum advantage without exhausting yourself, and how to protect yourself from those who would harm you out of fear. Only by mastering all of these things will you have any chance of truly mastering the craft.
This was written for the Magic March challenge  
This was widely regarded as the most boring lecture at the Colleges of Magic. Entire classes of apprentices would promise each other that they would cancel the lecture if they ever got the chance, but those that survived invariably changed their mind by the time they came to power.
Limit Pop
By longstanding tradition student's would play a game during this lecture. Limit Pop involved moving a sphere with a contained sound spell around the room with magic. The sound spell was set to trigger after a random amount of time. The loser of the game was whoever got singled out by the lecturer as being responsible for the noise. The game was carried out with a great deal of secrecey by the apprentices for centuries, though none of them ever wondered if the lecturers had played the game back when they were apprentices.
A variation is still taught in the Ancient Kingdom of the Forest and many masters continue to try to impart the same lessons to their apprentices.  
Like with much of the training at the colleges, this lecture tended to stay away from any mention of whether a path was morally right or wrong. Although the colleges were pledged to preventing mages from causing harm long experience had taught that explaining the drawbacks of certain activities was far more effective than
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Apr 7, 2024 22:26 by Icarus Crow

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