A Magic System: Base Energies

A while ago I wrote out a bunch of arcanobabble for a magic system I’d designed. This is that arcanobabble. I hope you like directionless worldbuilding.


Energies are forces which animate forms, that is, all physical things that can be felt or touched, including things which are tangible but invisible like wind. This name derives from the Theory of Forms, which I won’t go into here except to say that it is incorrect and based on a flawed understanding of spontaneous generation, but that it was popular for long enough that it became the etymological root for the word to describe all things that can be touched. An esper is just a unit of measuring energy, like an inch is for length or a gallon for fluid. At the time of its creation it was thought to be the smallest amount of energy needed to cast even the simplest cantrip, but in modern times cantrips costing as little as seven-tenths of an esper have been discovered. They are so complicated and accomplish so little that they are little more than a parlor trick for wizards who wish to show off to other wizards how good they are at squeezing utility out of very small amounts of esper, but they exist.

Base Energies

There are four base energies, that is, energies which manifest naturally and spontaneously in the mortal world as a response to physical action rather than being generated by existing esper (such as the emotion of human souls). You don’t need any living creatures at all to create ignis esper, you just need a fire. There are other naturally occurring energies, most notably ether and lumen, but since these have their origins in the heavens and can’t be physically caused (and lumen is spontaneously generated by souls in addition to having a physical cause, further complicating the matter), they aren’t considered base energies.

The base energies are often understood as being earth, air, water, and fire. These are actually the elemental forms from which other forms are made, and are not energies at all. The actual base energies are actually petrification, energization (yes, there is an energy called “energization,” and this one you can blame on people not originally understanding that petrification was an energy that actively opposed movement and believed it was a lack of energy), cold, and heat. Petrification is a focusing energy which opposes energization, a mobilizing energy. Cold is a focusing energy which opposes heat, a mobilizing energy. Mobilizing and focusing energies come from their effects on power and control. A mobilizing energy tends to be easier to channel but harder to direct, whereas a focusing energy is easier to direct but harder to channel. Since “elementalists” actually work primarily with energies and not really with elements, some prefer to be called energists, however this has received pushback on account of sounding stupid. Although people who literally work with elements are mostly artisans, elementalists are understood to be wizards who work with the base energies and if there’s anything this text has shown so far, it’s that entrenched vocabulary is rarely overturned with the theories that created them.

The base energies have a similar effect on the psychological as on the physical. Temperaments said to be sanguine are souls which have a relatively high preponderance of energization esper, which is thus called sanguine esper. Sanguine esper is carried in the blood and makes one courageous, playful, and carefree. Heat esper is called choleric esper, it is carried in yellow bile (also called stomach acid), and it causes a restless, ambitious, and easily angered mood. Petrification esper is carried in black bile, is called melancholic esper, and causes a depressive, serious, and analytical mood. Finally, cold esper is called phlegmatic, carried in phlegm, and tends to be calm, thoughtful, and patient.

Not all animals can channel all base energies. Phlegmatic and choleric esper are rare in prey animals, and melancholic esper is uncommon in animals in general (phlegmatic and melancholic esper can seem nearly identical on the outside, so many animals that appear to be melancholic are actually just phlegmatic). Curiously enough, despite animals typically being unable to channel certain esper types, they still typically have the humours associated with them, and these humours still serve some purely physical functions. There are two competing theories for this, the first believes that animals are lesser descendants of greater beings who have lost the ability to channel esper, and others believe that the purpose of these humours was originally something else entirely (being more or less sanguine doesn’t seem to have any effect on how much blood you can lose before you die, certainly) and the purpose of channeling esper about the body was an additional ability developed later on.

Animals (including and especially humans) can also channel other energies which may have effects on mood or behavior, which will be discussed in later sections.

Pragmatically speaking, the speed with which base esper can be concentrated into usable form and the rapidity with which it replenishes itself in the human soul means that it can be used in battle better than any other form of esper. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of magical creatures native to the mortal realm are spontaneously generated (or intentionally conjured) out of base esper. Having a natural understanding of the makeup of these creatures, elementalists can potentially discover their true names by analyzing their esper makeup. True names are essentially an incredibly complex password which, if spoken and laced with the proper synthesis of ether and whichever base esper or espers the creature is made from, can be used to compel obedience from the creature in question. Long lists of true names of various ageless magical creatures are often kept by elementalists and passed on to their apprentices, such that the list of their servants in the faerie kingdoms only ever grows.

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