Okay, so this is something from a project I've been working on for years in one form or another. It's been torn down and rebuilt from the ground up three or four times now, but I think I'm on the final form. If there's one thing you're almost guaranteed to have on a deployment when you're not being used as target practice, it's lots of free time, so I reckon I'll probably have it wrapped up by the time I leave.
Anyway, this isn't part of the story itself, it's an in universe document I wrote out over the last few weeks as a reference to the magic system of the world. It's long as hell, but I would greatly appreciate it if some folks could take the time to read over it and provide some feedback. I'm not worried about spelling or grammar so much; I wrote it on my phone in between fire missions, and I expect there are plenty of mistakes. I'm more worried about internal consistency and whether or not it all makes sense.
Thanks for reading.

[background=Introduction to Magic[/font]
[background=Magic is broadly defined as the manipulation of energy through will and intent. All humans are born with some ability to use magic, but without a connection to one of the Old Gods, this ability remains untapped. It's not impossible for one to learn to use magic without this connection, but the chances against it are astronomical. Throughout all of recorded history, only a handful of cases have been confirmed by one of the Old Gods. The vast majority of suspected cases have been the result of late aspecting. [/font]
[background=Most mages form their connection to the Old Gods between the ages of 8 and 12. This process, known as aspecting, occurs as the incipient mage’s personality becomes clearly defined enough to develop a sense of individual identity and personality traits. Each of the Old Gods has an affinity for certain traits. The Alchemist, for instance, is drawn to insatiable curiosity and a desire to experiment, while the Soldier is drawn to aggression and the will to fight. [/font]
[background=While this may seem straightforward on the surface, the reality is anything but. [/font]
[background=Lineage seems to play a role, though to what degree varies from God to God. The Conjurer seems to care very little about parentage, whereas Healing abilities are almost always passed down along paternal lines, and the Soldier's many aspects along maternal lines. [/font]
[background=Children raised in the Vale also have a greatly increased chance of aspecting when compared to children raised in the real world. While being born within the Vale almost guarantees that a child will aspect, children who travel to the Vale at an early age and spend their formative years there are also far more likely to aspect than those who remain. [/font]
[background=Further complicating matters is the fact that personality traits formed at a young age aren't necessarily permanent. Everything from puberty to life experience can have a marked cumulative impact on one’s personality, but gradual change over time seems to have little to no impact on a mage’s connection with their aspected God. Although truly radical personality changes are rare, they have been known to occur, typically as the result of brain damage or psychological trauma. Such changes do appear to have an impact, but how much is a result of the change itself is unclear. A more likely explanation is that the injury or trauma has a pronounced impact on the mage's ability to bring to bear will and intent. [/font]
[background=If all of this seems dreadfully unclear, that's because, even after the better part of five thousand years of recorded history and untold thousands of years of prehistory, much of magic remains a mystery. The Gods themselves seem unclear on many points, and remain remarkably reticent on others. If that wasn't bad enough, much of what we thought we knew was the result of deliberate misdirection, usually from the Conjurer, and the Enchanter actively discourages close examination of his powers. [/font]
[background=As a result, any academic study of magic must inevitably be approached with great caution. There's much we simply can't know, and without a fundamental willingness to question our own assumptions, any such endeavor is doomed to fail. [/font]
[background=Nonetheless, we have enough confidence in the basic mechanics to construct this primer. That's not to say that we won't find out it's badly wrong at some point in the future; it certainly wouldn't be the first time! In the event that our base assumptions are inaccurate, this primer will be redacted and an updated version will be released. Until then, we must assume that it is as close to the truth as the truth can be known at this time. [/font]
[background=The Old Gods[/font]
[background=Any discussion on magic would be incomplete without at least a passing explanation of the Old Gods. [/font]

[background=The Old Gods are the first beings known to use magic. They are, for all practical intents and purposes, immortal, and their powers are immeasurably greater than those possessed by any merely mortal mage. They are not the source of magic, but they are the source of our connection to it, and even today, our ability to use it is shaped and defined by them. [/font]
[background=There are seven Old Gods. [/font]
[background=The Eldest is the oldest and most powerful. While no one would call him their leader, precisely, he does have a degree of control, and on the rare occasions when he puts his foot down, the others tend to listen, however reluctantly. Though he has no specific talent, he can use all magic with ease. [/font]
[background=The Soldier governs magic best used for violent ends. His aspects are all geared towards fighting, be they passive enhancements like the Brutes, or active spells such as those used by Evocators. Historically, he's been the Eldest’s staunchest ally, and serves as his general when the Eldest goes to war. [/font]
[background=The Conjurer controls illusion magic. His Illusives are capable of bending light and sound to their will, and as a result, dominate both the magical and mundane entertainment industries. The Conjurer himself has a passion for storytelling. He's also a pathological liar who seems incapable of telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anything he says is considered suspect.[/font]
[background=The Enchanter is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the source of enchantments. Although his gifts have contributed immeasurably to the betterment of society, he, more than any other God, has worked to destroy it. His hatred for the Eldest is legendary. While the Eldest has called him to heel many times, it is inevitable that he will find new ways to undo the works of the Eldest, given enough time. For now, he seems content with the Association, but how long this happy state of affairs will last is anyone's guess. [/font]
[background=The Healer gives us healing magic. Thanks in no small part to her desire to understand the human body and the ailments that affect it, mages have long understood concepts that modern mundane science is just now coming to grips with. Her compassion is every bit as legendary as the Enchanter’s hatred, but the results have often been just as monstrous. Wise mages learn to fear her kindness and never show weakness in her presence. [/font]
[background=The Alchemist controls alchemy, or the art of making potions. Of all the Gods, she is the most apolitical, at least where their inner feuds are concerned. Though she's known to work with the Healer, she cares about nothing but her work, and if she's not one to play power games, she reacts with predictable displeasure towards anyone who attempts to use her for their own gain. She is a force unto herself, and even the Eldest leaves her alone unless there's no other choice. [/font]
[background=The Child is far and away the most dangerous of the Gods. Her powers are poorly understood, and investigating them is strongly discouraged. What we do know is that she governs chance and probability. While this might seem harmless, the Eldest disagreed, and convinced her to voluntarily exile herself and cut off humanity from her powers. She, like many children, is capricious, arrogant, selfish, and at times thoughtlessly cruel, but also capable of great kindness and compassion. Historically, those who have aspected under her have shared those traits, and the human race has paid for their actions in blood and horror. [/font]
[background=Exactly when or how the Old Gods first learned to use magic is unknown. By our best reckoning, they first appeared somewhere between ten to fifteen thousand years ago, long before the advent of writing, or a coherent dating system. Since nothing resembling civilization would appear for several thousand years, their early exploits must be considered lost, unless and until one of them sits down to explain things. [/font]
[background=What we do “know” is therefore purely conjecture. It's thought, for instance, that, that all seven originated from the same tribe of hunter gatherers, and that the seeds of their well known feuds originated during this time, but there's no way to prove it. [/font]
[background=What is known with a high degree of certainty is that their feuds trace a long and bloody path through history. Though fascinating, the historical angle is largely irrelevant to this primer. A more complete account can be found on other works, but for the sake of background, we’ll briefly cover the origin of their collective title: the Old Gods. [/font]
[background=Exactly who came up with the name is, like so much else, is unknown. The meaning, however, is clear enough: they were the oldest known gods to humanity, and the vast majority of religions are based of legends drawn from their exploits. This is no accident. The Conjurer, with his penchant for storytelling, ensconced them in myth and mythology for reasons known only to himself. He's claimed any number of motivations over the years, but all we can say for sure is that he's a pathological liar and that trusting his word on anything is a risky proposition at the best of times. [/font]
[background=Regardless of where the name came from or the motivations behind the Conjurer’s actions, the name Old Gods is wildly appropriate, for they are the basis behind everyone from Odin to Shiva to Yahweh. [/font]
[background=Though they bear little resemblance to each other in terms of powers or personality, the Old Gods do share a few common traits. [/font]

[background=They are, as previously mentioned, functionally immortal. Though they can be hurt, albeit with great difficulty, no known method of killing them has ever been found, despite their periodic efforts over the years to do one another in. Additionally, they do not age, are not susceptible to poisons or diseases, and can sustain themselves indefinitely without food or drink. On the rare occasions where they’ve suffered injuries they couldn’t recover from immediately, they still healed at a much greater rate than any mortal. Despite their immunity to nearly everything that could possibly harm them, they are at least voluntarily susceptible to the effects of recreational intoxicants. [/font]
[background=They are also able to modify their appearance at will through a process more akin to shapeshifting than true illusion. Although the Eldest and the Conjurer both have the ability to create illusions, they too seem to prefer the shapeshifting method. There are suspected limitations. No Old God has ever been able to alter their gender, for instance, or drastically alter their apparent age. They can also force one another to revert to their true Neolithic forms, though doing so is considered unspeakably rude. [/font]
[background=Fascinating though their commonalities may be, it’s in their differences that the Old Gods define magic. [/font]

[background=Will and Intent[/font]
[background=One cannot understand magic without first understanding what we mean by will and intent, two separate concepts that must work in perfect harmony if one wishes to use magic. [/font]

[background=Will, in this context, is a tricky thing to define. One might simply say that it is the desire to use magic to shape the world, but anyone who’s ever used magic will find that definition unsatisfactory. It’s not enough to simply want to use magic. One has to believe, truly believe, that the universe will bend itself to suit them, and they have to have the mental fortitude to force it to do so. [/font]
[background=This is not an easy thing to accomplish. From our earliest days, we learn how the world works. A huge part of early childhood development is figuring out the rules of our world so that we may move through it safely. Through observation, trial and error, and instruction, we build a rock solid image of the world in our minds and in our hearts, and we trust it implicitly. [/font]
[background=A small child may not know what gravity is, but they know that falling hurts, and they learn to fear heights. A little bit of fear might be fun, which explains the allure of jungle gyms and swing sets, but when they find themselves well and truly stuck, they almost invariably call for help, because the alternative is a painful fall. [/font]
[background=Magic defies the carefully constructed rules that we learn as children. Using it requires to cast those rules aside and to make a tremendous leap of faith. [/font]
[background=As adults, it’s hard to remember just how confusing and frightening those early days of learning can be. After so many years of training and practice, mustering the will necessary to work magic comes as naturally as breathing. [/font]
[background=The oftentimes harsh methods the Academy uses to coax children into making that leap of faith might seem barbaric in hindsight, but most children simply can’t harness their inherent ability without extreme measures. That they’re in no actual danger is no minor consideration, but the children themselves don’t know that, and for now, fear remains the best motivator for unlocking their potential. [/font]
[background=All the will in the world, however, is useless without intent. Once a prospective mage learns how to summon their will, they must learn to control it. It’s not enough to have the wherewithal to call upon magic; one must be able to consciously shape and bind it to their will. This is where intent comes in. [/font]
[background=If intent is easier to define than will, it’s also much more difficult to utilize in practice. [/font]
[background=Without the ability to shape magic once called, a mage will never be able to effectively use their powers. It’s not uncommon for incipient mages to unconsciously use their power, especially to escape from mortal peril, but the results are highly unpredictable, and they can rarely duplicate the act without further training. [/font]
[background=Shaping magic requires a degree of focus that, to the untrained mind, is utterly unnatural. One must perfectly visualize the desired outcome, leaving no room for deviation or error, as the slightest bit of wiggle room can cause all manner of unforeseen, and occasionally catastrophic, consequences. [/font]
[background=Perfect visualization is not something that comes naturally to most, and even the rare few with the gift for it require training to perfect it. Even after decades of training, most mages still rely on rituals and props such as wands or crystals to aid them in the execution of particularly complex workings. [/font]
[background=Though the uninitiated or foolish might decry such measures as laziness, experienced mages realize that they’re nothing of the sort. They are vital and indispensable tools of the trade for all but a handful of preternaturally gifted mages, and there’s certainly no shame in relying upon them. [/font]
[background=If utilizing will and intent weren’t difficult enough separately, mages must learn how to meld them together into a cohesive whole in order to work with magic. One might have the willpower to turn mountains into smoking craters, or the ability to perfectly visualize every facet of a working down to the smallest detail, but one means nothing without the other. Weakness in summoning one’s will or focusing one’s intent , far more so than raw natural talent, will determine the limits of a mage’s full potential.[/font]

[background=Active and Passive Powers[/font]
[background=Magical powers are divided into two broad categories: active and passive. [/font]

[background=Active powers are defined as those that require the user to consciously harness will and intent to achieve the desired effect. They are unquestionably the most difficult to master, because the concentration necessary to use them is not something that is acquired easily or naturally. To be sure, natural talent plays a role, but even natural talent must be trained and honed if the mage in question wishes to make effective use of it. [/font]
[background=Passive powers, on the other hand, require little conscious thought to use. For the mage in question, said powers are simply a state of being. For passive users, inherent magical strength is far more vital than the ability to consciously focus their will and intent. A Brute, for instance, will naturally gain their enhanced build regardless of their mental capabilities, or the lack thereof. [/font]
[background=Many scholars find this dichotomy to be wholly inadequate, because, as with most things magic, the rules are never as simple as they seem. [/font]
[background=While true mastery of Alchemy, for example, requires many years of study and experimentation, the mark of a gifted Alchemist isn’t their ability to make potions. To be sure, creating a potion requires a great deal of focused will and intent, but true mastery comes from their passive ability to divine how various ingredients will interact with one another. While an Alchemist without the instinctive gift can still work off of known recipes, without their intuition to guide them, experimentation is orders of magnitude more risky than it would otherwise be, and their chances of survival in the long run are virtually nil. This, sadly, is what makes Alchemy far and away the riskiest branch of magic to master. Until an Alchemist has tested the limits of their instincts, they simply can’t know how accurate they are, and miscalculations are often fatal. [/font]
[background=Alchemy might be the most extreme example of active and passive powers intermingling, but it’s far and away the only one. Trying to come up with more clear distinctions between powers has thus far eluded researchers, because for every rule, there’s always an exception, and that exception has a nasty habit of breaking the whole thing apart. [/font]
[background=So, until they have things sorted out, for the purpose of this primer, we’ll stick with the active and passive classifications for powers. [/font]
[background=So if passive powers don’t require any effort on the part of the mage, why does the standard definition of magic as the manipulation of energy through will and intent still apply? The answer is partly that even the most passive of powers can still have an active component if the mage in question is strong or skilled enough. But mostly it goes back to the Old Gods.[/font]
[background=Simply put, although the mage may not have to muster any willpower to use a particular form of magic, the Gods themselves have to actively allow their powers to be used in such a manner. [/font]
[background=Passive powers do not exist naturally, insomuch as anything in magic can be considered natural. They are a deliberate creation of the God in question, brought forth and gifted to mages for a specific purpose. [/font]
[background=That purpose varies from God to God. Most passive powers belong to the Soldier, who simply enjoyed finding ways to enhance combat effectiveness without requiring the mage in question to sacrifice combat ability. The Alchemist created the instinctive portion of her aspect because far too many Alchemists ended their careers as bloody shrapnel, a trend which stifled growth and innovation. [/font]

[background=Much of popular culture’s perception of magic is wrapped up in the concept of spells. With the right magic word and, of course, a magic wand, our pop culture wizards can use magic just as easily as breathing, casting a wide variety of spells without breaking a sweat. [/font]

[background=This, of course, bears no resemblance to reality at all, but it’s not all that surprising that the idea of spells as a means of casting magical workings has captured the imagination of the public. Spells, after all, are quick and easy, and don’t require minutes or hours of stodgy old men sitting in front of a workbench, rocking back and forth with their eyes closed as they mutter arcane formulas. They’re certainly more cinematic, at any rate. [/font]
[background=And, at a glance, spells do appear to be quick and easy magic that works exactly how the movies say they do. Wands are commonly used as foci, and spells are often bound to certain words or phrases that sound mystical enough. [/font]
[background=The mechanics behind spellcasting, however, are far more complicated. [/font]
[background=Spells are, for lack of a better comparison, the magical equivalent of computer macros. They allow mages to perform complex actions without going through the hoopla normally associated with magic by binding a working or series of workings to a word, phrase, gesture, or other means of activation. [/font]
[background=Each spell is unique to the mage who created it. Though to spells may outwardly appear similar or even have identical outcomes, the mages in question arrived at that destination in different ways. No two mages are exactly alike, so no two spells are exactly alike. [/font]
[background=The creation of a spell is a process that can take anywhere from days to weeks to months, depending on the talent of the mage, the complexity of the working, and the effort the mage is willing to put into the project. While a simple spell might be mastered within a matter of days if the mage can focus all of their time and energy on it, few can afford to lock themselves away and devote their undivided attention for more than a few hours at a time. Unless time is a consideration, it's far more economical to spread the effort out.[/font]
[background=The process behind spell creation is deceptively simple. [/font]
[background=First, a mage must master a particular working. Once performing it becomes second nature, they bind it to a means of activation, usually a word, phrase or gesture that they're not likely to use by accident. Once the binding is complete, they simply have to perform the activation and infuse it with the necessary willpower. [/font]
[background=All of this is far easier said than done. Remember that any use of magic requires perfect visualization of the desired outcome. For new workings, it can take several minutes or even hours to properly visualization the working. Through repetition, the preparatory time can be reduced, especially for simple workings, but even that is a far cry from true mastery. To create a spell, one must be able to instantly call to mind the necessary image with perfect clarity. Reaching mastery is no easy task.[/font]
[background=Once it's attained, however, the hard part is over. The mage simply has to perform both the working and the desired means of activation over and over, until they associate the two on a subconscious level. Time consuming to be sure, but not particularly difficult. [/font]
[background=For those willing to put in the work, spells can be tremendously useful. [/font]
[background=Most alchemists, for instance, often create spells for the purpose of activating potions. Since this frees up a great deal of concentration, they can focus on more important things, like getting behind something solid and fireproof if a potion goes wrong.[/font]
[background=Evocators almost exclusively use spells for battle magic. While relying on the standard three or four spells might reduce their tactical flexibility, the fact that they can instantly summon a fireball or a bolt of lightning capable of reducing the average foe to a pile of char and ash tends to mitigate the need for flexibility. [/font]

[background=A wizard is defined as any mage capable of using the powers of two or more Gods. They are exceedingly rare, and equally dangerous. It's entirely possible that one or even several walks among us today without our knowing, but have chosen to hide their true abilities. Given that the gut reaction of most mages is to kill them by any means necessary, one can hardly blame them for hiding, but given how dangerous they can be, one can hardly blame mages for their reaction. [/font]

[background=Wizardry comes from one of three paths. [/font]
[background=The first and most common (relatively speaking) is through the mastery of illusion. A sufficiently talented Illusive can create illusions so forceful, they not only bend light and sound, they bend reality as well. Though they aren't technically tapping into another God’s powers, it makes little difference to someone on the receiving end of a gout of fire. [/font]
[background=Fortunately, the vast majority of Illusive wizards have only been able to achieve results under extreme duress, and are unable or unwilling to replicate the feat after the danger has passed. An Illusive who demonstrates wizardry once will almost certainly be closely watched for the rest of their lives, but aren't actively considered a threat. [/font]
[background=The second path comes from the Child. Much like Illusive wizards, a sufficiently talented Sorcerer may manipulate the odds to a degree that all the circumstances required for them to use another type of magic fall into place just so. Since calling them Sorcerer Wizards strikes many scholars as silly, most refer to them as Warlocks. [/font]
[background=While this path is exponentially more difficult than the Illusive wizard’s, once they've figured out how to do it once, a Warlock is not bound by circumstance. They can call upon their borrowed powers again and again, and even bind them to spells. As the use of the Child’s aspects is already a capital offense, Sorcerers often feel they have no choice but to achieve Warlock status, out of self preservation if nothing else. Warlocks tend to hide in plain sight, disguising themselves as a moderately talented mage of another sort altogether. Since discovery means death and even hardened criminals know better than to associate with Warlocks, they tend to both live quiet, unassuming lives and fight to the bloody end if caught. [/font]
[background=True wizards gain their powers by aspecting under the Eldest. Since the Eldest doesn't allow anyone to aspect under him anymore, this path is far and away the rarest. While the Child’s control of her magic is imperfect and will occasionally slip, the Eldest has no such weaknesses, and as such, no wizards of this variety have been encountered in over four hundred years. [/font]
[background=A true wizard’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. Though they may call upon all magic, they still have to put in the work to master it. Thus, most tend to specialize in a handful of useful applications, while either ignoring or only dabbling in others. They also lack the ability to tap into passive powers, which makes alchemy in particular an extremely hostile hobby. [/font]
[background=Special mention should be made of master Alchemists and Enchanters. At a certain level of mastery, they can transcend the boundaries of their crafts to produce potions and enchantments that actively call upon the powers of other gods. Lesser Alchemists and Enchanters rely on others to empower things like healing potions and amulets, but true masters do not.[/font]
[background=For all practical intents and purposes, this talent is not considered wizardry, for the simple fact that they're not actively using those powers, they're simply imbuing the target potion or enchantment with them. That said, this talent is just as rare as true wizardry, and if anything, is infinitely more valuable. A master Alchemist who sells their skills to the highest bidder will become wealthy almost beyond imagining. A wizard who sells their skills to the highest builder is far more likely to be introduced to the dangers of mobs armed with pitchforks and torches. [/font]

[background=The powers gifted by the Old Gods to humanity reflect aspects of their own powers and personalities, hence the name. There are no hard and fast rules governing aspects. The Old Gods can create or eliminate aspects seemingly at will. The Soldier is the only one who actively experiments with them even today, but all of them have at some point or another. Since compiling a comprehensive list of known defunct aspects is the sort of academic pursuit that historians have made careers of, this primer will primarily be restricted to aspects currently in rotation. Brief mention will be made of known aspects of the Eldest and the Child, even though they're not active, because there's no guarantee they won't become active at some point in the future. [/font]
  • The Eldest- Since the Eldest has no magical specialty, his aspects deal equally with all other powers. There are two known aspects of the Eldest.
    • Wizard- As was previously mentioned, wizards have equal access to all other Gods’ active powers. Mastering those powers requires just as much time, effort, and skill as would be required of a normal mage. A lazy wizard is no more dangerous than any other mage. A motivated wizard is among the greatest threats to the continued freedom of mankind.
    • Cognizants- Cognizants, or Cogs, have no inherent ability to actively use magic. What they lack in ability, they make up for in knowledge. Cogs have instinctive and complete knowledge of all aspects of magic. Known as intellectus, this knowledge is so complete, it surpasses even the Old Gods themselves. Before the Eldest closed off his aspects in accordance the the Association Charter of 1632, there were always exactly 10 Cogs at any given time. When a Cog died, their powers were passed down to their oldest child. If they produced no offspring, their powers would pass to the next available heir. They formed a secretive order devoted to pushing the bounds of their intellectus. Exactly what they were searching for is still a closely guarded secret, but theories about their search range from a quest to discover the origins of magic to a way to kill a God. When the Eldest closed off his aspects, the Cognizants didn't lose their powers, but they did lose the ability to pass them along. The last Cog died in 1683 at the age of 107 years.
    • Eldest's Own- Although not technically an aspect, the Eldest's Own are his mortal agents. The Eldest's Own are only called upon when the Eldest feels that the world faces peril that requires his direct intervention. While their legendary (and occasionally infamous) deeds are worthy of discussion and study, for the purpose of this primer, we’ll restrict our discussion to their abilities. The Eldest's Own are drawn from all aspects and walks of life. A disproportionate percentage of their number have been Hunters, but others have been called upon many times. Status as one of the Own does not confer any additional powers, but it does allow a chosen mage to reach their fullest potential free of any limitations their aspected God might have placed on their field. Given that all Gods place upper limits on the powers available to mere mortals, this is nothing to sneeze at. The Eldest's Own are typically among the most capable mages of their generation before they're chosen. With their limits removed, their potential is truly frightening. Which, of course, is the point.
  • The Soldier- Those who aspect under the Soldier share his love for combat. He prizes aggression and the will to fight above all else. That’s not to say he or those who follow him love senseless acts of violence. Although he’ll be the first to admit that a fair fight is one you failed to prepare for, he doesn’t tolerate deliberate attacks on the innocent or noncombatants from those under his aspects. Some might find it surprising that murder rates among those aspected to him are the lowest of any God, but only if they ignore or overlook the brutal and personal attention he pays to those who use his powers in a manner he doesn’t approve of. Of all the Old Gods, the Soldier is the most likely to experiment with new aspects, or for that matter, to tweak existing or retire obsolete ones.
    • Brutes- Of all the Soldier’s aspects, the Brute is the most common. It is also, by a significant margin, the oldest, and the one least likely to be phased out as obsolete. Brutes are easily recognized by their stature. They tend to be taller than average, and are much, much more muscular. In addition to their enhanced stature, they also enjoy increased endurance, and are dramatically more resistant to injury and pain. They can shrug off injuries that would instantly incapacitate or even kill a normal person. The only sure way to put one down and keep them there is to destroy their brain, and even that is easier said than done. Although the Brute aspect is considered a passive one, there are active elements to it. A sufficiently powerful Brute can consciously accelerate their healing process, setting broken bones and closing lacerations in minutes or even seconds, although they generate truly awesome amounts of scar tissue in the process. They can also use their magic to counter magical defenses, such as wards or enchanted armor, by focusing it around their hands or occasionally feet. Doing so makes their blows no more physically powerful, but it adds an layer of extra metaphysical oomph that allows the purely physical portion of the blow to penetrate all but the most powerful of defenses.
    • Evocators- Evocators, also known informally as Casters, have the ability to wield the elements of nature as weapons. Fire and lightning are their most common weapons of choice, but they’ve also been known to use wind, water, or even earth. Even the weakest of Evocators is a force to be reckoned with. A fireball the size of a marble can be just as lethal as one the size of a car in the right hands. That said, evocations are just as dangerous to the Evocator as they are their target, and most prefer to focus on a single element and, with that element, create a handful of reliable spells to suit their needs. Since combat rarely gives them the time to focus well enough to safely control their magic to a sufficient degree, spells are far more practical than improvisation, and working with a preferred element ensures that they can easily predict how it will react with the environment. It is considered to be the mark of a master Evocator to be able to effectively use two or more elements in a combat scenario.
    • Bouncers- Bouncers are a relatively new addition to the Soldier’s portfolio, and represent a significant departure from accepted thinking about magic. Bouncers have the ability to control the trajectory of an object in motion. Bouncing is a unique combination of passive and active powers. It’s considered an active skill, as the Bouncer must consciously chose to exercise control over the trajectory they wish to alter, but it’s also considered passive, as it’s not bound by the usual limitations of will and intent. A Bouncer’s control over trajectories is instinctive and instant. It requires no focus or visualization on their part. They simply have to order a moving object to move a certain way and the magic does the rest. Mass and velocity both play a role in a Bouncer’s ability to affect trajectories. Altering the path of a baseball in flight, for instance, is significantly easier than altering the path of a bullet, which is significantly easier than altering the path of a boulder. Deflecting an object is also much easier than stopping it cold or reflecting it back towards its source. Bouncers were first created after the American Civil War, when the Soldier realized that the woefully inaccurate muskets of the past were about to give way to the next generation of powerful, accurate firearms, and that mages would need an effective countermeasure.
    • Hawks- What the Brute is to physical strength, the Hawk is to the senses. Hawks have greatly enhanced eyesight, hearing, and have a sense of smell comparable to a bloodhound’s. Though they find themselves overwhelmed on an open battlefield, they make ideal sentries, scouts, and trackers. Like the Brute, a Hawk’s powers are mostly passive, though unlike the Brute, their bodies have no outwardly visible identifications. If, however, one were to dissect a Hawk’s sensory organs, they’d find only a passing resemblance to a normal human’s, with accompanying changes to the brain that allows it to process the increased data. The latest generation of Hawks received several active components designed to enhance their effectiveness, most notably, the ability to see into the infrared spectrum.
    • Sensors- The newest of the Soldier’s aspects, the Sensor was created after WWII, when radar systems first made themselves useful. The Soldier decided it would be a dandy power to have, so he decided to create an aspect that would allow a mage to send our pulses of magical energy that would reflect off of their surroundings and give them a picture of the world around them. A sensor’s innate power determines the range at which they can be effective, while their sensitivity determines how much “resolution” they can get out of the returns. Typically, a powerful Sensor will lack the sensitivity, while a sensitive Sensor lacks power. Thus, they tend to work in matched pairs. The sensor’s ability to detect magic in their vicinity was a completely accidental side effect, but a welcome one, as it gives them an added degree of awareness of their surroundings.
  • The Enchanter- Those gifted with the powers of enchantment are builders and tinkerers. They can’t help but try to fix or improve the world around them, and aspecting under the Enchanter allows them to take turn their hobby into a lucrative skill.
    • Artificers- The Enchanter only has one aspect. The official name for those who fall under it is Artificer, but since he’s the least popular of all the Gods and no one, especially not those whose powers are restricted by his often petty whims, particularly cares to cater to his vanity, most prefer to call them Enchanters. He would argue that he is the only Enchanter, and calling mere mortals by the same name is blasphemy, but the argument typically falls on deaf ears. Enchanting is the most difficult of all of the aspects to fully master, not in the least because the Enchanter heavily restricts the power. With the exception of the Eldest’s Own and the occasional hedge mage, no Enchanter may create implements of war, either offensive or defensive. Additionally, there are severe limits on the amount of power that may be used for any one enchantment. Given that, even without these restrictions, enchanting is an extremely difficult field, this artificially imposed skill ceiling ensures that the vast majority of Enchanters will never reach anything like true mastery. Enchantment is accomplished by linking intent to an object and anchoring it with a marking of some kind, usually a rune. Once the rune and the desired outcome are linked by the mind of the Enchanter in question, they infuse it with will to force it into being. Enchantments can be temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent, depending on the nature of the enchanted material, how the rune was established, and the intent and power of the Enchanter. It is possible to link multiple times into a single cohesive enchantment, but this is incredibly difficult, as the Enchanter must actively consider not only the individual enchantments, but how they're supposed to cooperate with reinforce one another. Few minds are disciplined enough to link even two relatively simple enchantments, but true Masters have been known to link dozens, even hundreds of runes together in a single working. It appears that, once the trick is mastered, experience and skill make it progressively easier to accomplish again and again.
  • The Alchemist- The Alchemist attracts those who possess both curiosity and the resolve to date their curiosity, consequences be damned. They are compelled to experiment and push the boundaries of knowledge, wisdom, common sense, and a Healer's ability to fix shattered bodies. Alchemy contains two components: one active, and one passive. We will discuss them both.
    • Active- The active component of alchemy is the actual creation of potions. To create a potion, one requires both the ingredients and a potion base. Once the base is acquired or created (oftentimes, the base itself is a potion created specifically for the task at hand,) the ingredients are added to the base. The Alchemist then holds the desired outcome in their mind and infuses it with magic. Making potions is a difficult and dangerous profession. Ingredients often behave in counterintuitive ways under the influence of magic, and without a keen understanding of how each one reacts both separately and in combination, the results can be highly unpredictable. Even the strongest of wills would be hard pressed to contain a reaction gone bad, and there are far, far more ways for a potion to go bad explosively than there are for them to go right, or even wrong in a benign way. Because of this, Alchemist casualty rates are ruinously high, as young Alchemists who haven't yet learned to harness their instincts often meet their end in messy ways. If it wasn't for the fact that alchemy is not only useful but vital for the continued existence of life in the Vale, the practice might be banned outright.
    • Passive- In order to counteract the danger of alchemy, a passive element was created to give Alchemists an instinctive understanding of how ingredients might react. Learning to harness these instincts is the most important skill a young Alchemist must develop if they wish to become an old Alchemist. The true measure of an Alchemist's talent is their ability to tap into this latent knowledge. Raw power is only useful up to a certain point, but the ability to divine the probable reactions of ingredients is essential. The connection to these instincts first develops during the early teens (long after an Alchemist actually gains the ability to create potions,) and must carefully be explored to determine just how deep the connection goes. It can be difficult, to say the least, to tell the difference between teenage arrogance and instinctive knowledge. Fortunately, those who survive their teenage years have made it through the most dangerous portion of their career, and will typically survive to retirement age.
  • The Healer- Those who heal are inherently compassionate individuals who have a desire to help their fellow man. Healing has four aspects, each designed to approach the task in different ways.
    • Body- Body healers focus solely on physical ailments, and function by acting directly on the body itself. A Body Healer of sufficient power can heal anything short of actual brain death, but because the process relies on their own inherent power, the process can be exhausting, sometimes dangerously so. A Body Healer who exceeds the limits of their power is likely to keel over from fatigue, and in extreme cases, coma or death have followed. As a result, Body Healers tend to make better surgeons than battlefield medics. They prefer to approach their art under controlled circumstances, where they can easily and safely predict how much power they'll be expected to use and pace themselves accordingly.
    • Soul- Soul Healers work by correcting the flow of magic through a body. Once the mysticism is stripped away, a person's soul is simply their innate magic, and correcting imperfections in the flow can be a powerful healing aid. Soul healing is the basis for concepts like chi, and as a result, many traditional “Eastern” therapies, such as accupuncture and reiki. Most Soul Healers think such practices are nonsense, however, because a patient's receptiveness to soul healing is directly related to the strength of their magical power. The stronger one’s power, or soul, the easier it is to heal physical injuries and ailments by correcting the flow of magic. If a patient's magic is Master level, a Soul Healer can treat anything up to brain death. If a patient barely qualifies as a mage, they might be hard pressed to make a twisted ankle stop swelling. Because membership in the Association requires a minimum base level of power, and because soul healing places little strain on the Healer, they're popular in emergency medicine, at least in New Haven.
    • Mind- Mind Healers are the living embodiment of mind over matter. They heal by convincing the mind that the body is healed, which goes a long way towards making it so. For physical ailments, it's only moderately effective. Mind healing works best on injuries and ailments with no visible symptoms, as the patient's mind is more likely to accept the healing if it hasn't seen what's wrong. This limits the utility of mind healing in emergency medicine, but opens up a number of useful possibilities in other areas. The brain is largely unable to perceive itself, and thus, mind healing is wildly effective when dealing with ailments related to it. Brain tumors are a thing of the past in New Haven, and with them went cognitive degeneration from diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Stroke damage can also be repaired with ease, so long as the patient has enough mental capacity left to constitute a mind. That, ultimately, is the limit of mind healing. Unconscious patients can be treated, but damage extensive enough to destroy the mind is beyond them. Body and Soul Healers almost always refer patients with brain damage to Mind Healers, as their magic is less suited to the delicate and often finicky chore of nursing the brain back to full health.
    • Spirit- Spirit healing is similar to soul healing from a mechanical standpoint, but focuses on the spirit, or shade, rather than the soul. The exact nature of the shade is something of a mystery, even now. It exists independent of the mind, but typically flees the body after brain death. However, destruction of the body doesn't destroy the shade. Incorporeal shades are known to be the mechanism behind reports of ghost stories and hauntings. Surprisingly, the lore in popular culture is correct, insofar as violent deaths or strong regrets can cause a shade to linger after the death of the body. Most, however, move on. To where isn't known, despite the best efforts of religion and mysticism throughout the ages. Soul Healers act directly upon the shade. They're somewhat more effective than Mind Healers at treating physical ailments, but their primary focus is treating injuries and ailments of the spirit. Traumatic events leave their marks not only on the body, but on the shade. Modern mundane science can recognize the mechanical symptoms of things like PTSD or depression, but without knowledge of the shade, are unable to do more than address those symptoms. Spirit Healers, on the other hand, can cure the underlying causes, without having to rely on clumsy and often counterproductive chemical treatments. Spirit healing is a slow, gradual process compared to the other healing methods. It can take days or weeks of treatment to for the patient to fully recover, which makes it less practical for emergency medicine. However, in the realm of psychiatric medicine, Spirit Healers are worth their weight in any precious metal you care to name.
  • The Conjurer- The thespians of the world are attracted to the Conjurer. They tend to be naturally gifted actors, and more often than not, liars. Being a compulsive liar isn't necessarily a prerequisite for aspecting under the Conjurer, but it does seem to help.
    • Illusives- Illusives are capable of bending light and sound to their will, allowing them to create a wide variety of illusions for nearly any purpose you care to name. They tend to be notoriously reticent as to how, exactly, they accomplish this, and those who are willing to speak on the matter are rarely trusted. Much like their God, deception comes as easily as breathing to an Illusive, and no one takes them at their word without careful validation. Historically, this prejudice has been well justified, though modern Illusives are quick to point out that they have little interest in the foibles of their predecessors. No one believes them, but they're quick to point it out. At any rate, what is known is that they create illusions by building the desired image in their minds, and then infuse it with will to bring it into the world. The effectiveness of any given Illusive has as much to do with their imagination as it does with raw power. Some can create startlingly realistic illusions that can cover a broad area, while others can do little more than a flat 2 dimensional projection, not unlike a photograph. Extremely talented Illusives are even able to create moving images independent of whatever they're doing at the time, allegedly without having to exert conscious control. To hear them tell it, this isn't a function of power, but rather of their ability to visualize the desired outcome. Raw power affects two things: the “tangibility” of an illusion, and the degree to which it can be detected by arcane means. A weak but imaginative Illusive’s illusions might be extremely detailed and even self sustaining to a degree, but might seem wispy and insubstantial. A powerful Illusive who has difficulty with visualization might only be able to create a flat image, but one so lifelike that one wouldn't realize it was an illusion until one stuck their hand through it. A powerful and talented Illusive can create fantasies so vivid, there's little to distinguish them from reality. The more tangible an illusion, the harder it is to detect from a magical standpoint. It seems counterintuitive, but the more power pumped into an illusion, the less it “leaks.” After a certain point, not even other Illusives would be able to distinguish it from reality without touching it physically. Even Sensors, with their ability to detect magic, find it impossible to detect powerful illusions. They might sense the working being created, but once it's there, there are none of the telltale signs that give away other workings. Fortunately, from the perspective of both Hunters and the paranoid conspiracy theorists (but I repeat myself,) the vast majority of Illusives find their way into the entertainment industries, both magical and mundane. Their skill in illusion would be valuable enough, but their natural talent for deception makes them extremely effective actors, executives, and agents. This also allows them to create enclaves of their own, where they're free to live without the discrimination their kind might find elsewhere. It's no surprise then that young Illusives are typically guided towards these enclaves, both by their fellows and by the rest of society. Those who reject the safety of the enclaves rarely live happy or easy lives. Most, in fact, become Hunters.
  • The Child- Those who aspect under the Child are among the most dangerous mages in history. Despite popular belief, they are not inherently evil, any more than Healers are inherently good. Their ability to manipulate probability at will has ended drought and famine, and is responsible for the vast majority of documented “miracles.” The most famous, in fact, was Jesus of Nazareth. But when they do go bad, the damage is often catastrophic, and for that reason, the Child closed off her aspects in the early 1700’s and withdrew from both the real world and the Vale.
    • Sorcerer- Sorcery is defined as the manipulation of probability. It's a nebulous concept, and one that defies easy description. A Sorcerer can make things happen by calculating the probability of the event occuring on its own and then using their will to increase the chances of it occuring to near certainty. Much like alchemy, it has an active component that deals with actually performing the working, as well as a passive that gives the Sorcerer instinctive knowledge of the probabilities involved. Also like alchemy, the passive ability sets the limits on a Sorcerer's potential. They have to know the precise probability of the desired outcome before they can manipulate it, and calculating it in the cold is incredibly difficult. Unlike alchemy, failure is rarely dangerous, and Sorcerers typically live long enough to master their abilities if they don't fall victim to accident or angry mobs first. Sorcery is considered extremely dangerous because the only limits on a Sorcerer's abilities are their imagination and their ability to calculate probabilities. A Sorcerer can literally make themselves invincible to normal means of attack, or make their enemies simply drop dead. Hostile Sorcerers are immensely difficult to destroy. The only known methods are complete surprise and overwhelming force. Since the Child withdrew her powers from humankind, Sorcerers have become extremely rare. There are only three known Sorcerers in existence at this time, and all three continue to exist only on the sufferance of the magical community. The only reason they weren't killed out of hand was that they were discovered as small children, and the Eldest refused to countenance the murder of an innocent, however potentially dangerous they might be. They live comfortable but isolated lives well outside of New Haven, with the knowledge that at the slightest hint of wrongdoing, the nuclear devices hidden in their homes will be detonated. So long as they remain peaceful, they will be allowed to live out their natural lives.
    • Witches- Witchcraft is the manipulation of entropy. Unlike Sorcerers, who can use their powers to create, Witches can only destroy. By selectively increasing entropy, they can effectively cause anything to break down, including the human body. It should be noted that the term “witch” is gender neutral in this context. Historically, Witches are near universally reviled and hated within the magical community. Part of this is because they are incredibly dangerous, and if they aren't as hard to kill as Sorcerers, they are much more lethal on a personal level. However, most of the prejudice against them comes from the way that the magical community has been associated with witchcraft in the eyes of the mundane world. “Suffer not a witch to live” is a sensible precaution, but the much broader interpretation of Witch as anyone who practices magic that was favored by many religious institutions over the years has caused endless misery and suffering. Untold thousands of mages have been slaughtered by terrified mundanes over the centuries, simply because they treat all mages as potential Witches. For this reason, even in our “enlightened” modern society, Witches that manage to aspect despite the Child's withdrawal are ruthlessly hunted down and slain. Even the Eldest’s prohibition against the killing of children hasn't been able to stop the practice, despite the fact that he publicly makes a gift of those who murder Witches under the age of 16 to the Child. The last known witch was a 13 year old girl in the Rochester district of New Haven. She was captured and killed in 2003, much to the Eldest's extreme displeasure. Her killers were caught and turned over to the Child the following year, and according to reports coming from her domain, are still alive and very unhappy about it. Petitions for their release, or at least execution, have fallen on deaf ears. The Eldest understands how dangerous Witches can be, but the murder of children, even Witch children, is unacceptable in his eyes, for any reason.
  • Telepathy- Telepathy does not exist as an aspect under any of the Old Gods, and there is some debate as to whether or not it counts as magic at all. Nonetheless, telepathy is recognized as a branch of magic by the Association, and thus will be covered briefly. There are three types of telepathy: Sender, Receiver, and True Telepath.
    • Sender- Senders are able to broadcast their thoughts, but are unable to hear the thoughts of others. Their ability to “speak” without being heard by any but their intended recipient makes them valuable for a variety of jobs, and they rarely lack for work as secretaries, advisors, and the like.
    • Receiver- Able to hear the thoughts of others, but cannot broadcast their own. While sensitivity varies, most can pick up surface level thoughts and intent. Receivers are highly prized among even mundane law enforcement agencies, as they are extremely difficult to lie to.
    • True Telepaths- True Telepaths can both send and receive. They're extremely rare, and tend to be much more powerful than either Senders or Receivers. True Telepaths have been known to warp the wills of their targets, though they can only do so against someone with a weaker will than their own. Legal jobs for them are rare, as few would trust a True Telepath in their presence, but there's no shortage of work on the other side of the Law, where their abilities are highly sought after.