Impersonal Magic in Legend of the Five Rings

   Next up for today it’s a special request – some basic information on the remaining magical systems in Legend of the Five Rings that don’t require any particular personal power. Since such Impersonal Magic doesn’t require that the user have any actual personal magical talent, they’re quite attractive to those who lack such abilities. 

   Three of the impersonal magic systems are dealt with in the campaign handout booklet. Mudra (the art of channeling a trickle of Void into effects through meditation, posture, and gestures), Peasant Magic (the art of sending ritual messages to local spirits), and Shadow Brands (being infused with a second-hand trickle of Shadow energies) are dealt with there. Art-based magic does require a little personal power, so it doesn’t technically fall under impersonal magic – but it requires very little, and so is often counted amongst them. It is also dealt with in the campaign handout booklet.

   Stone Magic was dealt with in a three-part series earlier: here are links to Part I, Part II, and Part II.

   Black Stone Alchemy is related to stone magic, but works with fire, water, and air instead – using pressure, constant recirculation and distillation, and other exotic procedures to force its materials into unstable states, partially extruded into other dimensions. Of course, to keep such productions stable, they must be infused into obsidian. Breaking the stones unleashes powerful explosions, transmutations, and similar effects. Unfortunately, while quite powerful, Black Stone Alchemy is very time-consuming, occasionally explosive, and is subject to the inherent instabilities of using obsidian. Black Stone Alchemy is mostly practiced in Merenae, where – thanks to their bloodline-based magic – it may be the only way to access a particular effect. Practitioners will want Craft/Alchemy, Lore/Alchemy, and – if they really want to be good – a lot of expensive equipment. The level of effects which can be produced is (Lore: Alchemy/2 +1).

   Celestial Magic uses crystal (usually glass) to channel, and transmute, the energies of the Sun, Moon, and other celestial objects. Unfortunately, it requires a LOT of crystal – and hence is another rare-but-powerful discipline. In general, it’s easiest to produce high-powered, but fairly simple, effects. For an example, the Crystal Lens which charged crude weapons with explosive bursts of solar energy (encountered in the City of Jewels) was a product of Celestial Magic. The system is used by some of the nonhumans near the City of Jewels.

   Geomancy is megalithic magic – setting up massive pyramids, circles of stones, walls, and similar arrangements to focus and channel the natural energy flows of the earth. It’s quite powerful, and fairly reliable: once you’re done assembling the structure, and attune yourself to it, it’s power will flow into you wherever you go. Geomancers may have formidably enhanced abilities, constant protections, and many other ongoing effects available. Unfortunately, suitable power nexi are rare – and its practitioners tend to keep it secret anyway. After all, it’s very vulnerable to disruption if anyone knows about it. Geomancy is known in some areas of Senpet and the Ivory Kingdoms. Practitioners will want Lore/Geomancy and Lore/Architecture, and – if they really want to be good – either a really high Void score or some minor mystical senses. The Phoenix have attempted to dabble in Geomancy – with their Landward Experiment – but things went throughly out of control and they were unable to find a way to safely shut things down.

   Herbal Magic is used everywhere, and isn’t normally even recognized as magic: some herbs work best when prepared in particular ways, or with chants, or at appropriate times of year, and have minor magical properties – which, given the general nature of reality in Rokugan, can be pretty hard to tell apart from entirely nonmagical effects. Herbal magic is used virtually everywhere, and is rarely recognized as such – despite the decidedly supernatural results that the physicians of Rokugan can achieve with their herbs.

   Nexus Magic resembles Geomancy, but relies on focusing and channeling the energies flowing through a dimensional gate. Nexus magic is vanishingly rare, it’s mostly the province of mystic orders and guardians who have been sitting on top of the same gates for a very long time. The use of Nexus Magic may help explain some of the rumors about the Elephant Clan. Nexus magic is far stronger than usual at the moment, thanks to the approach of the Great Conjunction.

   Pacting involves persuading spirits to either channel their power through you or to actually inhabit your body. Pact Magic is common throughout Rokugan in the form of ancestral spirits and other spirit allies, and is formally employed by the Panther clan, who can call on the totem spirits of animals that they personally defeat to bestow power on them. The Spirit Binder school uses pact magic as well, although they do use small traces of personal power to set up the battles of will they use.

   It is possible to pact with spirits from beyond Rokugan – granting them access to this universe, and a body to experience it through, in exchange for whatever alien powers they grant. Given that such spirits are extremely unnatural – at least in this universe – and that their mere presence tends to warp and distort the energies of Ningen-Do, this is widely regarded as a very doubtful form of magic indeed.

   The Yodatai use both forms of pact magic extensively, since only the impersonal magical systems will work for them. Thrane also used to use both forms of Pact Magic, but no one is sure whether any of the relevant lore survived the plagues.

   Thunder Magic revolves around catching the discharging energies of the Air and channeling them through complex ritual setups and into various effects. Thunder magic is surpassingly powerful. Unfortunately, you can only achieve good results with natural storms (with their comparatively vast reservoirs of energy) and – even if you have a natural storm – you may not be able to get a discharge precisely where you need it. Hence Thunder Magic is normally the province of weird eccentrics, pottering around in high places (preferably in very sturdy buildings) and playing with lightning rods.

   Tidal Magic is reliable, regular, and best suited to fairly subtle effects: the regular inflow and outflow of water and it’s energies through the complex glyphs of Tidal Magic (despite the name it works perfectly well with rivers and streams, although their energy reserves are relatively weak compared to that of the sea) can generate a variety of effects -bestowing health, prosperity, and low-level wards on those in the vicinity. For the most part it’s considered a branch of Peasant Magic, like Prayer Wheels (which are, indeed, peasant magic). It’s quite rare, since it is a rather limited branch and requires a lot of specialized study.

   Void-Shadow Magic taps the energies of the Void and Shadow at the same time – a stunt roughly equivalent to tapping the vacuum energy and negative space at the same time in technological realities. It’s apparently the power source for the Elemental Dragons, and probably for the Elder Gods of Senpet. Within Rokugan it’s normally only used by the Naga, in committee, and with numerous precautions, when they have to do make some major changes in reality. The last time it was used was to move the Naga cities into a pocket-dimension millennia ago. Minor errors in the ritual of dismissal led the current crop of wild gates, which the Naga are busy patching.

   There are a number of extradimensional systems as well, but they require a link to the dimension where they come from that transmits power to you. A few Naga and ancient items work that way, but they all cause some problems. Madness Magic is the ultimate expression of that sort of thing, and is practiced – or, possibly, studied extensively and carefully refrained from – in Senpet.


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