Queer Wizards Setting Not Otherwise Named

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Queer Wizards Setting Not Otherwise Named

Postby AndaisQ » Fri Mar 24, 2017 9:53 am

I just recently realized that I haven't put this setting info on this forum, despite that being, like, exactly what this forum is for, and despite the fact that I have a massive design doc about it I can just copypasta in here! This is a blatant queer disabled power fantasy setting I've had bouncing around in my head for a couple of years now, inspired by a passing thought I had which basically amounts to "what if identity politics gave you magic powers". Absolutely no conclusions about my own political views that can be drawn from this setting are endorsed, JSYK. CW for violence and brief mentions of Nazism. ETA: Also most of this was written like two years ago so it is also not 100% stylistically endorsed either because GROSS, OLD WRITING

Overview

Humans are noted for their prodigious ability to hate each other. This can lead to the wholesale loathing of an entire group of people by more or less everyone in a certain region, which causes the Balance (which is responsive to such attitudes) to become thinner around any given member of such a group. The core of the human in question thus works harder to draw anima into itself, which eventually breaks the imposed vacuum and leads to a magical implosion, leaving the human with more power than they know what to do with and more flowing into them every moment. Such a human is called a mage, and they can pull some serious shit with that extra anima.

Anima, or "the Balance," is an energy which flows through all living creatures. It manifests itself within living beings in a few forms, primarily luck, emotions, and physical and mental health or illness. There are two types of humans, mortals and mages (also called "wizards"). Mortals' levels of anima are pretty much consistent; mages' reserves are higher, in proportion to a number of factors in their mortal life. However, mages use their anima actively, which can drain it from them at a dangerously high rate. If they use up too much of it, they are very likely to die, and they'll be miserable for days even if it doesn’t kill them. On the other hand, if they don't use any for too long, then they are likely to suffer "burnout," a condition in which one's anima suddenly, well, burns out, immolating the mage completely unless it is arrested with the help of an experienced witch.

Another danger of using magic is that too much magic being used at once can spawn creatures known as “demons.” These beings are made of pure, twisted anima, look like the ever-shifting bastard offspring of Escher and Bosch, and want nothing so much as to devour whoever created them. Fortunately for mortals like ourselves, they can only perceive and interact with mages and magical effects. Unfortunately for mages, they are extremely resistant to magic and cannot be dealt with by nonmagical means. The only way to destroy one is to either let it devour whoever spawned it or to have an exceptionally powerful witch use that mage's power to bind it beneath the earth. Almost all instances of demon spawning end with at least one mage dead, and even if they bind it without casualties (a definite rarity), the witch and the summoner will most likely be near-drained for at least a week, because that binding working is intense.

Being wizardy is mostly pretty nice due to magic making everything super awesome, but mage society basically amounts to a very loose-knit permanent civil war (for a definition of "civil" that does not include an actual civilization), only a handful of mages have ever lived past thirty, and you can pretty much never leave. Live fast, die young, leave a supernaturally pretty corpse.

Magic is divided into four basic disciplines (witchcraft, sorcery, infusion, and shifting) with subschools for each. Most mages at least dabble in each discipline, and many end up dual specialists or generalists. Single-discipline specialists are scary powerful, especially in combat, but full specialization isn't very common, since it shuts you out of a lot of nice things you can get by working with the other disciplines and you can get to about 80% of a discipline's workings as a generalist anyway. There's a rough order of what people are most likely to specialize in, going up from shifting (very rare) to witchcraft (less rare) to sorcery (relatively common, but still only 10% of the population). Infusion is nearly impossible to specialize in exclusively, since most of it is just an application of other forms of magic; some have managed it, but most of them have been pretty unique.

In addition, all mages have something called a "Knack" in some part of one of the disciplines. A general Knack makes it easier for them to work with that aspect of the discipline; for instance, a general blessing Knack makes one's blessings more effective and/or persistent. You can also have a Knack for a specific sorcerous working, which helps you learn and cast it almost effortlessly even if you have no experience as a sorcerer. A specific Knack also helps the mage infuse that working into an artifact or charm with more power and efficiency. Knacks always match the mage's personality, and often have something to do with how they awakened; these factors coincide with almost suspicious regularity.

There's a vague correlation in magic between how easy something seems and how easy it will be to accomplish. For instance, it's almost impossible to fly without wings, because "people don't fly" is just about the first thing most people learn, but if you grow yourself wings it's easy, because everybody also knows that things with wings (birds, bats, et cetera) are able to fly, despite the fact that winged humans really shouldn't work physics-wise. The Balance is made of people, and it works essentially how people think it should. This is known as the Law of Faith.

Related is the Law of Symbolic Resonance; a mage can increase the power of a working or artifact by using symbolism that is commonly reinforced in their culture, such as by making a light-producing artifact in the form of a sunburst. (This kind of working really suffers if you're working in an area of the world with different cultural associations and symbolism; if you make a memory-enhancing amulet shaped like an owl in America [owls=wisdom] and go to Japan [owls=death], it'll decrease in efficacy somewhat because the Balance is differently shaped there.)

Witchcraft: Manipulating the anima directly. Specialists are called witches.

Basically, you can give people good luck or bad luck, you can shift around their emotions and energy, and you can heal them. Often regarded as the "purest" form of magic by the kind of pretentious assholes who judge things by purity of form.

Blessings (luck, health, willpower, etc) rock. They form a sort of buffing layer above your natural anima that makes things nice for you in whatever field they apply to, they take any magical hits you might be taking first, and they're a borderline necessity in any mage battle because you can damn well bet the other side will have them. Placing them on random passers-by can be a moderately effective form of charity, as long as you're semi-careful about what aspect you're blessing and what that person is going to use it for.

Curses are essentially the opposite of that. They drain away anima from whatever aspect they're keyed to, making you unlucky/sick/apathetic and generally ruining your day. They make a very useful weapon if you can swing it, but they’re also the simplest kind of attack to defend against; unless the attacker has a Knack for curses (which levels the playing field a bit), a mage who is defending themselves against someone trying to manipulate their anima will almost always win. (Unless you're trying to strip away blessings [especially blessings from outside parties], which is more plausible.) Thus, curses work best in the form of either a test shot at the beginning of combat to check for blessings, or a sneak attack when they're vulnerable. The latter tends to be a win condition, since a mage with impaired anima in the middle of a battle is basically dead in the water.

Emotional manipulation is technically the same thing as a blessing or curse magic-wise, but it's a very different tool. Essentially, what a motus (emotion spell) does is funnel power into (or drain power out of) the part of the anima that controls whatever emotion you want to fuck with. This causes that emotion to intensify or weaken, leaving the person angry/happy/sad/etc. It's as easy to defend against as any other curse, though the additive version is more insidious and can sometimes slip past otherwise tight defenses.

Healing illness is pretty simple, as long as you stick to ones that can heal naturally (other sorts need more cautious handling). Healing injuries, on the other hand, is not as easy as you might think. Essentially, what happens is that you use your anima to convince whatever part of someone has been damaged to heal at a massively accelerated rate. To do it effectively, you need a pretty serious grounding in field anatomy, because if you just say "arm, heal thyself" to a complex radial fracture, any number of unpleasant things will happen. A healing Knack can bypass a lot of that through the Law of Faith, essentially turning the process from "quickened field medical care" to "I cast Cure Moderate Wounds and fix the things that are broken." Which is, you know, pretty nice. Still want to be cautious around complex injuries and brain shit, but it's a lot easier.

There are a few more complex effects you can cause (mostly to people) by manipulating the anima directly, called Pure-Casting. Many of them, such as freezing someone in place, causing people agonizing pain, or binding demons beneath the earth, can be useful but are hard to master and harder to execute, and are generally learned by witches or particularly talented generalists. The highest levels, including immortality rituals and soul-devouring, are so absurdly difficult as to be near-impossible for anyone without a relevant specific or general Knack, both of which are rare, but the latter far more so. There are three recorded instances over the past 2500 or so years of someone having a general Pure-Casting Knack; one is staggeringly evil, one is an angry misanthropic hermit, and one was Jesus.

Sorcery: The use of anima to change local reality. Specialists are called sorcerers. Things you do with sorcery are called "workings" (which is sometimes used as a generalized term, which makes things confusing, but what are you gonna do).

Things you can do pretty easily with sorcery: transmutation (turning a thing into another thing, shaping a substance, changing the properties of a thing), environmental effects (decreased gravity, minor weather alteration, illusions), a few other things (flight [with wings], lighting fires, fucking up technology). Things you can do if you're really fucking good at it: serious physics-tampering (antigrav field, miniature gravity well), major natural effects (localized tornado, magma fissure, lightning strike), some heavy-duty elemental shit (solid-air shields, unmelting razor-sharp ice, stoneskin). Things you just can't do: conjuration (making things out of thin air [water counts but can be produced by condensation or extremely basic transmutation of air]), flashy energy-based shit (magic missile, fireball, et cetera)

Here is a basic overview of how sorcery works: The Balance is the only absolute natural force in existence. Every other law of the universe is essentially a convenience. Sorcery is the art of using one's anima to tell the local reality that it should be doing a different thing than what it is doing. A basic example is freezing water, which is the first thing that any sorcerer learns. One sorcerer may "lie" to reality, telling it that the water is frozen already and expecting it to correct itself. Another might persuade reality that there's no real difference between ice and water, it's really not a very big change on a molecular level, more change than that has been known to happen on a regular basis for very little reason. A third might tell the water that if it is not ice in five seconds then she will be pissed, and bad things happen to bowls of water that fuck with wizards, so it had damn well better freeze if it doesn't want to have a very unpleasant day.

The main practical limitation of sorcery is that it is a very bad idea to use it in combat unless you specialize in battle sorcery. For one thing, high-level sorcery is extremely slow without a Knack and serious training, because you're convincing the universe to do things it really doesn't want to be doing. And at the lower levels, the region of the sorcerous skillset that can do anything harmful at all is severely limited. And, as an added bonus, even if you have it all figured out on how to do the fighty thing, it's difficult to control sorcery in an intense emotional environment. And that's, you know, kind of a thing in battle. If you lose control of powerful sorcery, bad things can happen. Earthquakes, tornadoes, people getting splashed with water, et cetera. Bad stuff all around. Sorcery in daily life is all well and good, but best to leave combat magic to the professionals, or stick with low-level stuff like mud under your enemies' feet and maintaining fog of war.

Infusion: The creation of magical items (arcana) and creatures (familiars) by empowering them with rigidly defined structures of anima. Specialists are called arcanists.

Arcana is "magic in a bottle." Most things that the other disciplines can do can also be infused into an arcane widget of some kind. However, there's a much higher difficulty curve on infusion; it's both impractical and dangerous to attempt to infuse a really high-level working, because it would take months of intensive work and you'd probably forget the twist on your thirty-second rune and it'd explode when you tried to use it. There are two forms of arcana: artifacts and charms. An artifact is essentially a working with a packet of extra anima, contained within a diagram. The diagram is drawn on something (stitched into cloth, etched into a gem, tattooed onto skin, etc) in a laborious and extremely draining process, thus binding its power to that medium. The working can then be activated at will, which will drain energy from the artifact's anima "battery" and allow it to work for however long until the battery runs out and it has to recharge from ambient magic for a while. (Some artifacts are efficient enough that they can operate and regenerate indefinitely. Trying to make such an artifact is a good way to make you want to tear your hair out unless you have a Knack for the working or for artifact efficiency.) Charms are basically single-use artifacts. They're much easier to make, and they're a lot less finicky.

The size of the base item has an effect on how much power can be stored in it; the size of the diagram has an effect on how efficient it is (the bigger the better). In general, it's easier and more common to have a large artifact with an inefficient diagram than a small artifact with a very efficient diagram and the same output, but the latter is preferable. In the case of tattoo "artifacts," a portion of the diagram dictates the area of the skin infused with its power. Piercing jewelry artifacts can also draw power from a section of skin contiguous to themselves, though they can't use nearly as much space. Since piercings also tend to be very small, most arcanists will enlarge them by sorcery beforehand to work on a larger canvas, then shrink them back down to put them in place.

The way arcana actually works is that it uses a diagram of runes (which work in a very specific way; think "programming," not "poetry") infused with anima to fool the universe into thinking that the infused artifact or charm is a mage. So if you make a water-freezing wand, what you've done is created a stick that "looks like" a mage to the universe and, when activated, convinces the Balance to freeze water in the same way that a sorcerer would. This is why infusion is not just a subschool of sorcery, even though most artifacts are sorcerous: the magic-y bit is in making it a thing that can do magic at all, as well as in making it do the magic.

Familiars happen when someone uses a specialized form of infusion on an animal to grant it some kind of magical power. This is potent, but it also increases the animal's intelligence to human levels. This means that most people are very uncomfortable with familiars, as with the casual creation of sentient life in general. More so, actually, since a lot of people intentionally have children even though they would be weirded out by the idea of making a sentient fire-breathing unicorn. There are still people who create familiars, of course, whether out of scientific hubris or simple loneliness, but they are generally given a wide berth by the magical community at large.

Familiars, because they are living creatures, regenerate the anima necessary to use their abilities much more quickly than a standard artifact. However, since they are living creatures, they also use that anima to live. Thus, a familiar is less like a sentient artifact and more like a low-powered animal mage. Familiars tend to feel positively towards their creators unless given some reason to feel otherwise; they are usually not given to existential crisis or Frankensteinian killing sprees.

Familiars can be infused with almost any working, but they can't learn anything magical on their own and their anima reservoir can't be increased past a certain point. The potential reservoir depends on factors such as size and symbolic potency. Owls and housecats have the highest potential energy by size in Western culture, dramatically outclassing other creatures in their weight range. Those who have managed to create and infuse tiny dragons report that they can reach near-human power levels, but they're also really hard to make without serious effort and a lot of very unhappy lizards, so most potential beastmasters stick to more traditional pets.

Human infusion is generally considered A Really Fucking Bad Idea. It very, very rarely works, because you're fucking with a lot more pre-existing anima than there is in animals and trying to pour bits of your soul into someone else's generally results in catastrophic rejection. The closest it comes to success is when it results in horrible monsters, such as vampires and hags, who are not human by any stretch of the imagination but do have limited magical powers.

Beings such as golems or nonsentient undead (skeletons, zombies) are not familiars; they are constructs, essentially a type of artifact made out of clay or a corpse, whose power is to move about and act according to a simplistic personality module programmed in at the time of creation. Ironically, necromancers are actually much better-regarded than those who create familiars, since all they're doing is desecrating some corpses for robot-making purposes, not casually creating sentient life. Constructs, unlike familiars, are occasionally given to Frankensteinian killing sprees. This usually occurs when their creator gets too fancy with the personality module. There is exactly one recorded instance of a fully sentient construct who didn't end up killing anyone (or himself). He was a zombie, his name was Lazarus, and we're not getting into him here. So, if you don't happen to be Jesus of Nazareth, don't try that resurrection shit.

Shifting: The use of anima to change your body. Specialists are called shifters.

Shifting is, in many ways, a branch of sorcery. The principles are essentially the same, and they work well in conjunction. However, shifting is much easier and more instinctive than sorcery, and it is also geologically slower. For instance, if you shaped a pair of wings out of a marble statue with sorcery, it'd take about half an hour and leave you feeling pretty exhausted. Growing them out of your back, on the other hand, doesn't take much effort or skill, but it'll take anywhere between twelve hours and a week for them to grow out fully (depending on your level of expertise and whether or not you have a relevant Knack). Reversing a shift takes less time, and the simplest changes (claws, fangs, cosmetic alterations) can be trained down to a few minutes, but overall it's often more convenient to just walk around with whatever bits you're most likely to need. This means that many habitual shifters end up looking rather... peculiar. (But trenchcoats and baggy clothes never really go out of style.)

Even wizards who don't go in for creature features end up looking a bit different, though. Shifting is a semi-autonomous process; so much anima flows through a mage's body on a regular basis that if it isn't channeled into regular intentional changes, it'll do it all on its own. Mages thus end up subconsciously nudging their bodies towards whatever they consider ideal at that point in time. This does sometimes result in a sort of "creepy movie-star-pretty" look, but less frequently than one might expect. Most people end up with only a few with a slight refinement of the features they already have.

After this "ideal" point is reached, one of two things typically happens if the mage continues not to actively shift: Either their self-image continues to change, adjusting their body with it, or they start growing embellishments (small horns, fangs, et cetera). These embellishments are generally still in keeping with the mage's personal aesthetics, and can be reversed with as little effort as any other form, but it's embarrassing and potentially hazardous to sprout them in one's sleep, so a certain amount of recreational shifting per week is encouraged. Altering the length or color of one's hair will pretty much take care of extraneous corporeal anima for a few days, and really, who doesn't like fucking with their hair? No one, that's who. (ETA now that elves: Elves. Elves don't like fucking with their hair. Apologies to Elves reading this paragraph.)

The real practical utility of shifting is in combining it with sorcery. Sorcery is powerful, but affecting oneself is fairly difficult; you can only change around so much in someone who looks basically human. Shifting can bridge the gap there by making you less human, and thus providing a channel for the power to work with. For example, someone who shifts herself more muscular can make herself much stronger than she could ordinarily, and someone who turns their skin into scales can have a much easier time enduring blows. This extends far past the organic effect of the change, increasing one's capabilities by an order of magnitude rather than the relatively minor benefit that the muscles or scales alone might provide.

BESTIARY

Humans: You know what a human is. They have a core of anima like any other living thing, but it's larger than most animals due to their sapience and relative longevity.

Demons: Really bad shit. They're made entirely of corrupted anima, they spawn randomly when an old enough caster uses magic, and they hate you. Demons have no base form, instead just sort of melting through a variety of shapes based loosely on animals and human nightmares. Fighting one is the next best thing to impossible, since they're nearly impossible to hurt or affect through any means besides Pure-Casting, demon claw wounds harm the soul itself and have been quantified as "the most painful thing in the world," and they can bypass or destroy anything you might try to use to entrap them. They also have the ability to track their prey perfectly, never get tired, and can move overland at about the speed of a racehorse. Try to avoid them.

Vampires: A common result of botched human infusion experiments to turn mortals into mages. Instead of getting majykks, they just become really strong and fast, lose their human reasoning/morality, and steal anima from people to sustain their curséd existence. No blood is necessarily involved, but in the vast game of Telephone that is mythology, "life force" turns into "blood" right quick, and it stayed that way for the most part. Vampires usually try (and often succeed) to kill their creators, then get out and cause a nuisance to the world at large. If they go unchecked for too long they can start to develop powers similar to witchcraft, which is terrifying. Best extirpated at the earliest opportunity, preferably with fire.

Hags: Another result of botched human infusions, in this case when attempting to give a mortal a specific power á la familiars. They get the power (or powers), but they also lose all but an animalistic intelligence and gain unpleasant physical characteristics like scales or bat wings. They are physically and magically potent and unfailingly loyal to their creators, making them a popular variety of soldier/servitor among the flagrantly evil. The creation of hags is one of the few magical actions that absolutely no one in the magical world will tolerate. There have been occasional reports of things that appear to be hags with human intelligence; these reports are generally not taken seriously. That's just not something that could happen. Right?

Skeletons, zombies, ghouls, etc: Basically just golems (big ol' magic robots), except made out of corpses instead of clay. Classical undead which do not fall under this categorization include vampires (detailed above) and ghosts (nonexistent). See also: Infusion.

Unicorns, dragons, griffins, etc: Any mythological creature that isn't at least part human was almost certainly created by sorcery at some point, usually to be a familiar. This is where the idea of unicorns curing illness and dragons breathing fire, for instance, come from. See also: Sorcery, Infusion.

Minotaurs, centaurs, mermaids, etc: Product of shifting. Turning one's head into that of a bull increases the benefits of shifted muscles and sorcerous strength due to symbolic resonance; turning one's lower half into a horse can make you really damn fast; turning part fish is good for swimming. It isn't done much anymore because it's Kind Of Conspicuous and magic is relatively secret nowadays. Most if not all part-human mythological creatures are similarly convenient forms used by shifters for one reason or another. See also: Shifting.

Protagonists: THE TRIO

Skyler (Sky) Serrano. African-American/Hispanic, 14 years old, demi-female, pan. To some degree our main protagonist. She is very extremely much timid and not fond of talking to strangers, and has something of a history of unfortunate things happening to her. Has a healing Knack, since she's a nice person and she awakened as a mage immediately after getting the shit beaten out of her by some jerk. Her awakening comes at the beginning of our story, so she's new to this whole magic scene. She's going for a pretty broad-spectrum magical curriculum, with a focus on witchcraft because that's the easiest to turn into helping people, but she wants to get to flying as soon as humanly possible, because FLYING IS COOL.

In general, she's got a bit of a sarcastic streak (like every other character I've ever made), but she's less aggressive about it than her peers. Being new to the magic scene, she tends to have more of a stake in figuring out what's going on in the current situation and figuring out what she can do to help than in participating in the verbal sparring. In casual conversation, she can be sarcastic, but mostly just enough to keep up with Rowan's smirking and Hakim's sneering. (They're nice and all, and they all get along like a dream, but they're the kind of friends who would just feel weird if they weren't sniping at each other.)

She admires Rowan's moxie (but doesn't try to emulate it, thank God) and occasionally enjoys basking in her general coolness. She later starts to have a sort of sisterly bond with her, which she is happy about. She and Hakim have a friendly but mutually exasperated relationship (she gets upset about his occasional coldness and his obsession with magic, he gets upset about her self-sacrificing attitude and her overprotectiveness), and a somewhat generic UST thing that they're both too socially hopeless to do anything about.

Rowan Zhu. German/Mongolian (sort of; it's complicated*), female, 18 years old, aro/ace. As the oldest member of the trio, she should technically be a role model of some kind; everyone ignores this fact, for obvious reasons. She is exclusively specialized in battle-shifting, because she can shift pretty much instantaneously and at will, which is not technically something that should be possible, but she does it regardless. She has never actually demonstrated any ability whatsoever in the other disciplines. Instead of using her own sorcery to enhance her shifts, she uses a collection of artifacts from various sources. Claims to have eaten a demon once, and thus taken its power into herself; opinions are divided on whether this is an outright lie or just a creative interpretation of the truth. Has a motorcycle, which shrinks to fit in her pocket and gets supernaturally good mileage due to the largesse of a sorcerer/arcanist mechanic she met and hit it off with once.
*Her dad was Chinese [sort of], her mom is German, and her dad died well before she was born so she was raised without any cultural context. Not that Dad was really someone she'd have gotten a lot of cultural context off of anyway, considering. She still identifies primarily as Chinese, possibly as a fuck-you to mommy dearest.

In day-to-day life, she's very exuberant and adaptable, prone to hyena-laughter and making herself extra teeth for the purpose of unsettling grins. She can be kind of annoying and/or condescending sometimes, but she's open to feedback (such as "christ, Rowan, shut up"). She often drives situations, either by pissing someone off, getting pissed off, or having pissed someone off several years ago. She's been on the scene for longer than most, and if you're like Rowan that means you end up with a lot of enemies.

She's very close with Hakim, having picked him up from a really shitty situation three years ago and taken him under her wing with a "you're a nerd, but I like that, so I'm going to keep you" attitude. They have a sort of weedy little brother/terrifying older sister thing going, and it suits them nicely. Rowan initially views Skyler with some contempt (Hakim did kind of bring her into their duo like a stray dog), but once they get to know each other she respects her and starts to view her as a sort of sister in the same mode as Hakim is her brother. This makes everything a bit awkward once Hakim and Sky start dating, but luckily, Rowan is not one to stay bound to an extended metaphor once it gets fucked up and incestuous.

There are some pretty major spoilers surrounding Rowan, which I may or may not get into eventually. Suffice it to say that there's some stuff going on with her Shifting, that demon thing isn't nearly as fake as everybody thinks, and she doesn't like talking about her mom. At all.

Hakim Ahmad. Saudi, 16 years old, demi-male, bi. Kind of insufferable when he gets himself to lecturing, but he's a pretty alright guy when he's not being a condescending prick. Has a potent sorcery Knack (speed and control), but even though he could easily become an effective battle sorcerer, he's too much of a magic nerd to be willing to specialize that far. There's just so much magic he could be learning, how could he possibly ignore it all just to "perfect his art"? Also, he insists on spending a good half of his energy on arcana, which leaves him tired and irritable all the time despite a reasonably high personal anima level. (Said exhaustion is actually increasing his anima levels over time due to a sort of exercise effect. Upon realizing this, he shrugs and works some more infusion into his schedule.) He lays off the crafting when he has advance warning of Shit Going Down, which leaves him jittery and super-excitable due to anima charge; it weirds him out, and he tries not to do it too often. He has a hobby of giving mortals depression-curing plastic jewelry (they're a remarkably simple application of witchcraft, easily infused into a small artifact, and he has a vague Thing About Charity due to residual Islam), which is how he meets Sky (she notices that the ring he just gave that lady was suspiciously shiny in ways she can't quite verbalize, and decides to follow him around for a while absent anything else to do).

He's really, really close with Rowan. She saved him and gave him an introduction to the magical world of magic, and they've had three years of not having any other consistent company to force them into a borderline symbiotic relationship. They snipe at each other as a way to conceal how much they care, and how much they care is a lot. He also has a major bond with Sky once they get to know each other; insufferable sexual tension aside, they just get each other on a lot of levels.

Minor characters!

Eldora Fleischer: Rowan's mom. Blonde, German, and super evil; Rowan claims she eats babies. Walking spoiler. That's kind of an old-fashioned name, isn't it?

Christ Jesus of Nazareth: Near-arbitrarily powerful Pure-Caster from 2000 years ago (give or take). He fucked up on a truly astonishing number of levels, and the results are even farther-reaching than you might think. This is why infants should not be given the power to toy with the fundamental nature of the universe, no matter how tender and mild they may seem.

Simon Guerrero de la Rosa: A young arcanist with a knack for familiars. He lives in a big ominous tower (invisible to mortals, of course) in the Painted Desert. Congenitally blind, magically skilled, kind of a dick for various reasons. Besides garden-variety dickery, most of his moral compass left the building a while ago, with the assistance of a nice German lady he met a couple of years ago who taught him a few things about the less widely advertised applications of infusion.

TL;DR: If you are universally despised and/or ignored, and entirely consumed with self-loathing, you get neat magical powers. Conveniently, this cures your depression. Inconveniently, it doesn't fix your other personal issues. More inconveniently, it drops you into a warzone full of emotionally compromised teenaged wizards and gets you eaten by demons in about ten years. It's all Jesus' fault.

FAQ

Why is there a masquerade? Chesterton's Fence, as enforced by the natural inclination of teenagers to be weird and dramatic about stupid shit, and some kind of weird Gothy teencult.

How do your other characters fit into this setting? Poorly! Ari was a wizard during the Holocaust, one of the many kidnapped and vivisected by Eldora (who was, by the way, almost singlehandedly responsible for the Third Reich not being instantly destroyed by millions of spontaneous wizards). Suzanna was kicking around circa the Protestant Reformation, setting Catholics on fire with Leo, who was either a cat familiar or a hag, I haven't decided. Sally was a priest-queen in Punt between 2000 and 1500 BC who now occupies a super fucking sweet/super fucking cursed tomb. Harry might theoretically exist in the present, as might Anya (though Anya might, unusually, be black); they're sort of between the Ari-cluster and the Sky-cluster on the unclear spectrum of my characters. Tessa was a contemporary of Eldora who failed to adjust during the cataclysm of 33 AD. Johanna is a contemporary of Eldora who did successfully adjust during the catacylsm of 33 AD. She's a bitter hermit, and kind of loving it.

Why is it all Jesus' fault? Spoilers! Yeshua of Nazareth was a prophesied messiah, one of whom shows up approximately every 2000 years; these messiahs serve as a sort of mystical audit, making sure magic keeps flowing smoothly around the world by sucking in a significant portion of that magic and being ritually sacrificed at the peak of their power to watch over the world's magic for the next two millennia. Yeshua, however, turned out to be kind of a wimp; when the time came to make good his sacrifice, he panicked and used the influx of magic to bring himself back from the dead. This temporarily put out the sun and flooded the earth with demons, and is generally regarded as a bad move. Then he panicked even harder and ascended back to his fated position, but the damage had kind of already been done, and magic has been super fucked up during the AD period. The audit's coming up pretty soon, and everyone is anxiously debating what to do about it, and what to do with the poor sonofabitch who's going to be taking the throne. There's a lot of plots going around. They're mostly kind of poorly thought out.

How do my, the reader's, characters fit into this setting? ONLY YOU CAN DECIDE
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