Epic Dawn: Magic – "Subtle/Intrinsic Magic"

Any well-developed fantasy setting involves much more than particular magical systems. Magic is part of the setting itself, part of the land and the peoples, part of history and part of what drives the narrative forward. Not all magic should be explained in a setting – some magic is simply going to make folkloric sense or mythological sense rather than conform to an external, formal logic.

This the magic that makes certain flowers grow over the graves of heroes or that poisons a well where someone drowns. It is the magic that sends storms to foreshadow an invasion or blights the land at the site of a terrible battle. It is the magic of resonance between physical reality and narrative reality, between legend and fact.

In the Epic setting, this magic comes from the interaction of the spirit and material worlds. Actions in one reflect upon the other, and there is always resonance between them. In this setting, every action has consequence and its own weight.

For the most part, this is a narrative tool for the storyteller to use. As player-character progress in power and prestige and influence, they will begin to have an effect on the world through the same subtle magic. What they do will leave a sort of residue that will persist, even after they have moved on. In this way, what happens is given even greater weight and importance. It is also an excellent tool for foreshadowing, mentioned above, and for setting a mood or for fixing the identity of a place in the mind.

Here are a few principles to guide the use of subtle or intrinsic magic:

1. The rightness, or wrongness, of things is expressed through subtle or intrinsic magic. In Epic, there is the assumption that good is also Good, and that the world has a moral structure. This is to reflect the moral structure of legends and myths and folklore, whether or not it is a historical reality.

2. Subtle and intrinsic magic is mirrored, for the most part, in nature. Weather, plants and animals, natural formations, bodies of water and the like are far more reactive when they are untouched by human hands, uncultivated and wild. Civilization imposes particular things on nature, bending and shaping it my human will, and it is therefore less spiritually reactive.

3. Subtle and intrinsic magic has concrete influence on persons and events, but this influence is oblique rather than overt. There isn’t a storm before every battle and there aren’t flowers on every hero’s grave. It isn’t consistent in that way, but rather flows with the narrative.

It is relatively difficult to master use of this kind of magic precisely because it is imprecise. There is no concrete system, no table – it is simply a very important aspect of Epic to keep in mind as your story progresses and your characters develop. The world responds to your actions and influences the in turn.

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