Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

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Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:55 pm

So I've been playing this game called Spellweaver and I keep itching to reify it into a glowfic setting. The worldbuilding is... honestly kind of bad, but it's the kind of bad where I want to fix it.

Spoilerboxing the vague rambling that originally appeared here, to make room in case I come up with something less vague and rambly to put in this post:

Original text of this post
Mostly this post exists so I can write down the things I just figured out before I forget them. I am about to go to bed. This is not going to be the most coherent worldbuilding thread I've ever produced.

There are six factions in Spellweaver. You could summarize them as "angels, demons, elves, goblins, oligarchs, and nerds".

When I think about templates in Spellweaver, it's blatantly obvious that a Miles would be an angel. But the Dominion faction (oligarchs) has a really interesting backstory (...if I throw out half of the details as obviously wrong), and in particular it makes me think of a Barrayar-alike where Serg Vorbarra took power (and became an immortal vampire) instead of dying.

So the current sketch of Vorkosigans in Asperia (the Spellweaver world) that I have is: The golden age of Faessaya was on its way out. They had an equivalent of Mad Yuri followed by an equivalent of Ezar. But there was no equivalent of the Escobar invasion for the equivalent of Serg to get killed doing, so he took power when his father died. The equivalent of Aral died soon afterward along with his wife and child, which made the equivalent of Ges Vorrutyer very annoyed, but he shut up about it for a few thousand years until (perhaps because the technology had only just become available) he finally decided to clone Aral's kid. Twice, one to keep for personal use and one to do gruesome medical experiments on for the hell of it. Meanwhile on the celestial plane, something something handwave dead people can ascend to angelhood.

I promise I'll be more coherent about this tomorrow after I have slept.
Last edited by Kappa on Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Reified Spellweaver

Postby Kappa » Sat Mar 19, 2016 11:55 am

All right, I've been naming characters and I think I have a reasonably solid history of Faessaya.

Once upon a time, the northern land of Faessaya (inhabited primarily by elves) was the richest and most prosperous kingdom on the continent of Asperia. Then the giant pit of evil opened up in the southwestern corner of the continent. This upset a lot of people and started some wars, one of which put Faessaya briefly in the hands of a paranoid tyrant who had a bunch of his own nobility assassinated. Elessar Anfaere* (Ezar) orchestrated a coup, deposed and killed the mad king, and took power for himself, with the help of recent war hero Vityr Kosikaeren* (Piotr). Things settled down a bit.

Vityr's daughter Astara (Aral) had a regrettable teenage fling with fellow noble Gessa Ruelle (Ges). When they broke up, Gessa disappeared for a bit and came back slightly paler and more nocturnal, but nobody noticed anything amiss. She started hanging out with Elessar's son, Prince Sanos (Serg). There were rumours that they were lovers, but nothing substantiated.

Time passed. Faessaya held out against periodic invasions from the forces of evil and the goblin hordes they displaced. Elessar realized that his son had fallen in with a bad crowd, but not in time to do anything about it; he died of old age and Sanos took the throne. Meanwhile, Astara met a foreigner named Kirel* (Cordelia) and was instantly smitten. They married and had a child. Gessa hung around them a lot and creeped everyone out. It came out that she was now a vampire, and so was the new king, and Sanos started getting into some really depraved shit. Vityr and Astara headed the open opposition to the new regime, but they were unable to get rid of the vampire king. Eventually, against Gessa's protests, he had the whole Kosikaeren family successfully assassinated, including Kirel and Astara's sixteen-year-old daughter Laila* (Miles).

Skip to the modern day, several thousand years later. King Sanos is still in power and Lady Gessa is his trusted partner, although they never married. Faessaya is still rich, but most of that wealth now goes into maintaining its assassins and torturers and conducting gruesome technomagical experiments on political prisoners. And mind control, don't forget the mind control. Gessa hears about a new experimental procedure that lets you grow copies of a person; she digs up those old graves and, when trying it on Astara fails, she makes two copies of Laila: one to keep for personal use, one to experiment on even further.

Now I just have to decide how this ends in Laila becoming an angel.

*I'm not completely satisfied with some of these names.
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Re: Reified Spellweaver

Postby MaggieoftheOwls » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:48 pm

This makes me intensely want to punch several of the people involved. Good job!
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Re: Asperia (Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Sun Apr 24, 2016 10:10 am

So I've been going over this and I think I'm going to break away from the source material a bit, reinvent a bunch of the geography and cosmology, and file off the last few bits of the serial numbers. I've come up with a lot of cool ideas for this setting but frankly they, and the history of Faessaya as described above, deserve better than to be chained to the Spellweaver developers' shallow worldbuilding decisions.

With that in mind, here's a sketch of a magic system!

Magic comes in a number of types.


Mana forms are colloquially known as "spellforms" or just "spells": magical power arranged in particular ways to have particular effects. They can range from immaterial and invisible to solid physical objects. In solid form they usually resemble glass or crystal; in liquid form they usually resemble coloured water; vaporous forms are unstable and therefore rare, but usually resemble coloured mist; fully immaterial forms, of course, don't have an appearance of their own, but may lend things a coloured glow. Mana is usually, although not invariably, associated with cool colours: blue, green, purple.

Artifacts are objects not inherently made of mana, but with mana infused into them. Technically, a mundane substrate with crystallized mana inlaid in a spell pattern is a mana form rather than an artifact, but no one maintains the distinction outside academic circles. Likewise, most potions are technically artifacts (and the ones that aren't are mana forms), but when you talk about artifacts you almost never mean to include potions. The distinction between an artifact and an object with an immaterial spell attached is likewise mostly of interest only to people with too much time on their hands.

Living spells are similar to mana forms in many ways, and you could think of them as a subtype, but their creation and usage are very different in practical terms. They are arrangements of magical power that have an autonomous will and lifeforce of their own, and you essentially keep them as pets, receiving their benefit for as long as you take good care of them.


Blessings have nothing to do with mana, being instead based on angelic power. Mana can be derived from many sources, recycled, constructed, and expanded in various ways; but all angelic power comes ultimately from an angel. Sufficiently powerful angels can lend their power out to large numbers of people, which is how you get priests; priests can bless things despite not being angels, but only because each priest is borrowing a little bit of power from a specific angel. Different angels can have different portfolios, but they're nearly always in the same vague genre: defense, healing, enhancements to various attributes of people or equipment. The angelic colours are white and gold, and blessed things tend to glow in one of those.


Dragon magic is confusingly difficult to categorize. There's a theory that dragons might be immensely old and complicated living spells, like fae but more so. There's a theory that dragons might be more like angels, beings with an inherent magical nature. It's hard to ask the dragons themselves, because doing diplomacy with dragons gets weird real fast. But they do definitely have magic, and it definitely doesn't fit neatly into the same box as any other kind of magic, even though it might be based in a similar underlying phenomenon the same way living spells and mana forms, while hugely different in practice, are both still made of mana.


Lifeforce magic is another of those situations where one underlying phenomenon has multiple distinct applications. It involves interacting with lifeforce, a form of power that all living things have. With it, you can do things such as preserving someone's spirit after they die, enhancing someone by shaping their lifeforce, and growing the bestest garden ever; or you can tear someone's life from their body and shred it to fuel a complex enchantment, if that's your jam. It is not most people's jam.


Finally, not much is known about infernal magic besides that it's bad news. Some people say that demons are basically just the opposite of angels and their power is basically just like angelic power but more unpleasant. Other people say that it works in a completely different way. In support of the first theory, we have the fact that angels and demons seem to have capabilities on around the same scale if differently specialized, dislike each other a whole lot, and organize themselves in superficially similar ways despite that. In support of the second theory, we have the fact that demons don't seem to use priests, and infernal magic is not recognizably flavoured with individual demonic personality the way blessings are.
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Re: Asperia (Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:13 am

(Answers to in-universe unresolved questions:

Fae are living spells; dragons are essentially living artifacts. They started out as biological lifeforms and then their lifeforce became infused with mana. Don't Try This At Home, Kids. It worked out okay for them, though.

Demons are not the same thing as angels, although they're sort of complementary. When an angel works through a proxy, it's by granting a priest some of their power, which the priest can then use in all the same ways the angel could have but on a smaller scale. When a demon works through a proxy, it's by binding that person's spirit to their own and using them as a puppet, and it's much rarer. Most non-demons on the demons' side don't wield any demonic power at all, they're just skilled in nasty forms of lifeforce manipulation taught to them by demons.)
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Re: Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:25 pm

Geography and Cosmology

The planet of Imbria has one continent, generally also called Imbria.

Here is a sort of pathetic map. May be subject to revision later when I have access to my nice(r) mapmaking software.


So, the approximate regions of the continent are:

A mostly flat region inhabited by angels and the allies of angels, including some humans and dwarves.

A forested region inhabited by fae and the allies of fae, including a substantial population of elves.

An arcihpelago inhabited by academics of various species who are interested in the streams of mana falling from the sky there.

A northerly region inhabited primarily by elves.

A mountainous region inhabited by dragons and the allies of dragons.

A giant fiery pit inhabited by demons and the allies of demons.


The angels and the demons also each have a realm of their own. The demonic realm is accessible from the bottom of the giant fiery pit. The angelic realm is accessible via temporary portals created with a significant expenditure of angelic magic. It's known that the spirits of priests definitely pass into the angelic realm when they die, and other people who associate closely with angels are also likely to receive this benefit.
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Re: Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:34 pm

Sapient Species and some magical notes

In general, anything that is alive has a lifeforce. Things that are sapient have a more coherent lifeforce that holds together better and resists change/damage more strongly. It's possible to have a lifeforce without an attached biological body: this is called a spirit. Some spirits used to be living things; some arose naturally; some may have been created artificially. It's usually possible to tell from context which kind someone is talking about, but you can also specify 'natural spirits', 'spirits of the dead', get more specific with 'elemental spirits', etc.

On to the magical and biological sapients of Imbria!


Humans are much as you'd expect.

Elves are tall, pointy-eared humanoids with a natural affinity for working with living spells.

Dwarves are short, stocky humanoids with a natural affinity for artifact creation and working with solid-formed mana.


Fae are sapient living spells, who traditionally take the form of small glowing elves with beautiful insectlike wings, although some have wings made of leaves or breezes or mist instead. Technically, since they have lifeforces but not biology, they qualify as spirits, but they're different enough from what you would usually call a "spirit" that people normally think of them as unrelated phenomena.

Unicorns are living blessings. Nobody's quite sure how that happened, and the angelic signature attached to their species (it's the same one for all of them) doesn't match any existing angel. They have healing and purification powers, and are classed as a type of spirit more commonly than fae because of their non-humanoid body plan.

Spirits can definitely be sapient; it happens by default when they're the spirits of dead sapients, and occasionally among elementals and so forth. Sapient elementals often aren't taken seriously, though. Gotta have that humanoid body plan.


Angels are magical beings from another world. They are nearly always humanoid in shape and have feathered wings, usually in some combination of white and gold.

Demons are also magical beings from another world. They tend to have a distorted humanoid appearance, usually with extra limbs or appendages - three or four arms, a tail, wings - but some just have horns or scales.


Dragons are enormous winged reptiles. They have really weird cultural stuff going on and don't associate with other species very much, except for...

Dragonborn are usually-winged humanoids, sometimes with assorted reptilian features, who live near dragons and claim to be descended from them. Some people are unsure whether this is a metaphor, although if you ask a dragonborn it's very literal indeed. They can point to family trees and everything. How? Magic. Why? Dragons.


There may be more species yet to come.
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Re: Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Sun May 01, 2016 8:46 pm

Further Notes On Sapients

Sometimes you get a kind of sapient that isn't really its own species but which bears mentioning alongside that list. Here are those.


Vampires are a transmissible state that began among elves and hasn't spread very far even there, though any biological sapient of humanoid descent could technically be turned. As a vampire, you have the same personality that you did before the change, but your biology is significantly altered. You don't need to breathe, you heal very very quickly, you never age another day, you become completely reproductively infertile, and your need for food and water is replaced by a need to kill people* by personally drinking their blood with your face. Harvested blood which you then drink from a container is palatable, and nonfatally nomming on people is downright filling, but if you don't supplement your ethical diet with a little fangmurder now and then, you will get... I'm going to call it "vampire scurvy"... and your nifty super-healing will crash and your body will wither and you will eventually die. Turning more people into vampires is a natural ability all vampires have, but it involves lifeforce magic and is impossible to do by accident.

*"People" here refers to non-vampire biological sapients of humanoid descent. That's humans, elves, dwarves, and dragonborn. Well, mostly; there's also...


Hybrids (although they're probably not called precisely that) are the result when one biological sapient of humanoid descent has kids with another one of a different species. When it's dragonborn, you mostly can't tell the difference, because dragonborn are basically three-way hybrids plus some dragon. Interspecies romance is rare and not usually blessed with high fertility, but it's not unheard-of, especially in places where multiple species mingle regularly (so, mainly the archipelago).


Fae can reproduce with each other but not with any lifeform based in a non-mana substrate. Unicorns can reproduce only with other unicorns. Spirits can't reproduce sexually at all. Neither can angels. There are rumours of demon hybrids, but who knows how credible those are.

If you were wondering where vampires came from originally, the answer is infernal magic.
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Re: Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Mon May 02, 2016 6:13 am

The Thing With Dragons

So, dragons.

The thing with dragons, the reason why they don't associate with other species much and also the reason why dragonborn exist, is that the social structures of dragons revolve around a quasi-feudal relationship between a pregnant dragon and the sire of their egg. This works really well among dragons. They take a long time to gestate and mature, and there's no obvious clear-cut threshold for when a juvenile has definitely turned into an adult short of "started carrying somebody's egg", so needing to create another sapient life every time you want to change your place in the sociopolitical structure of your clan isn't actually as big a deal as it looks; you can go quite a long while between new eggs in a clan as long as everyone is content with their social position.

However, when anyone else wants to do diplomacy with dragons, things are going to get weird.

Back when the world was young, it was rare but not totally unheard-of for some biological sapient or other to end up in dragon territory. When that happened, well, the dragons would incorporate this tiny short-lived creature into their society the only way they knew how. It required some pretty complex lifeforce magic, but dragons are very good at lifeforce magic. When it involved getting a dragon pregnant, the offspring would be virtually indistinguishable from other dragons, and in fact most dragons can trace at least a little ancestry back to the dragonborn these days; but when it involved getting a humanoid pregnant, which was more common because the egg-carrier in the relationship is usually the one who has more trouble accessing resources by themselves, well, then you ended up with a dragonborn.

After a while, all the dragonborn get together because they form a really really obvious subgroup in dragon society. They find that the normal fertility barriers between species are nonexistent for them, which makes sense because they are, on a certain level, all the same species even if some of them resemble elves and some resemble dwarves and some resemble humans. You can still see some very very blurry ethnic groups among dragonborn that correspond to the three traditional species of humanoid biological sapient, but for the most part, they've homogenized by now.

By the way, dragons are reproductive hermaphrodites. It wouldn't really work any other way. Dragonborn are not universally the same way, but a substantial fraction of their population is; not quite "equal thirds of each sex", but something in that neighbourhood.

Anyway, since that time, dragon society has discovered symbolism. Nowadays, you can carve elaborate stone "eggs" and then pass them around to establish your place in a clan. Stone eggs never grow up, so they had to change the way they operate a little in response to this long-overdue social technology, but it's all worked out fine and now it's possible to do diplomacy with dragons without somebody having a kid. But other people still tend to avoid dragons, because they live in areas largely inhospitable to other sapients and they are really weird by everyone else's standards.

Incidentally, the dragonborn (and dragons) are capable of having children with literally anybody, or facilitating literally anybody having children with literally anybody else. Spirit? Vampire? Fae? Unicorn? Angel? Demon? If you have a lifeforce, the dragons can hook you up. But they usually don't, because the set of people who know this about the dragonborn and the set of people who really want to have children outside their normal range of operation are both pretty small and there isn't much overlap. (They can also provide children to same-sex couples. This is a somewhat more common need, but still not widespread, and alternate solutions usually suffice. Also, not everyone is desperate enough for otherwise impossible babies that they're willing to have a kid who will hatch out of an egg.)
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Re: Imbria (formerly Asperia/Reified Spellweaver)

Postby Kappa » Mon May 02, 2016 6:57 am

Where Angels Come From

Angels come from heaven. Alternately, angels come from nowhere.

Every so often, a new angel will begin existing in the angelic realm. They will begin with enough background knowledge to function in angelic society from the beginning, including an understanding of whatever languages are spoken nearest the place where they started. It is very obvious when an angel begins to exist: there's a huge burst of golden light, clearly visible for hundreds of miles in every direction. Someone will go get the probably-confused new angel and welcome them to the world and there'll be a big party and the new angel will choose what they'd like to be called for now - sometimes they pick a permanent name or title, sometimes just something they don't mind going by until they think of something better.

Now, remember how I was saying that the local Miles was going to end up being an angel?

That happens. But nobody knows it happens, because a new angel who used to be some other sort of person is indistinguishable from one who just sort of happened. The process of converting from the spirit of a dead person into an angel takes a long time - like, one or two thousand years, minimum - and isn't visible from the outside, and it strips away all your memories until what's left is just your core personality. Now, you can get those memories back by hanging around people who knew you when you were alive... but everyone who knew you when you were alive is almost certainly dead, particularly since if you knew any angels on a close personal level you're less likely to have turned into an angel yourself. Dying-and-going-to-heaven the way most people do it is incompatible with becoming an angel. And (conveniently for those people!) if you're close with someone who went to heaven, you yourself are probably also going to heaven, so ex-mortal angels aren't likely to find their friends there.

Angels, by the way, can die. They can be killed, but it's very difficult and pretty much unheard-of outside of combat with powerful demons. The more common way for an angel to die is for them to invest the very last little bit of their angelic power in something. Still very rare, mind you, but every so often there's an angelic emergency and the only angel on hand is nearly tapped out. Making priests is an example of the right kind of investiture, but almost never the kind that actually constitutes an angel's final straw, because while a priest's power is greater than the corresponding fraction of the angel who invested it in them, it's not normally a big enough difference for the angel to kill themselves over. No, the sort of thing that usually happens is things like an entire city being on fire and the angel needing to do a full power investiture and not just a blessing in order to put it out. That kind of angelic legacy lasts: there is actually a city somewhere on the plains of Imbria that is blessed against fire to this day.

(What happens when an angel dies? Well, you don't see them wandering around again with their memories intact anytime soon. But five or ten thousand years down the line, you might see a new angel arise who looks and acts strikingly similar, if anyone is paying enough attention to notice...)

Are you wondering about unicorns now?

So we know an angel can hand out small pieces of their power. They can safely do this right down to the dregs, but that diminishes them to the point where they're barely more powerful than one of their own priests, so it's not common. More usually, they'll keep at least half of what they started with. An angel who hasn't handed out much of their power still grows with time, but slower: your power grows fastest when you're riding somewhere between a third and a half of your current maximum.

What happens if you take that entire half-an-angel and invest it all at once into a single person or thing?

Well, somebody tried it. They made a nature spirit into their ultra-priest. And that nature spirit became the first unicorn. Actually, that nature spirit might have become the first hundred unicorns. I am hazy on how unicorns made the transition from a single being into a species; or maybe they started out as a small group of similar-looking nature spirits, except then I'd have to decide how they counted as a single investiture... Anyway, unlike an angel who split themselves into thousands of separate pieces bit by bit, the angel who created unicorns is not quite dead as such. She is, if you will, taking the world's most hardcore nap. It's not currently possible for her to wake up, but someday it might be.

How Angelic Power Works

Exact figures pending.
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