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.


  • 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.