beccaelizabeth (beccaelizabeth) wrote,

Trying to avoid appropriation

A lot of RPGs use mana and chi as words for game mechanisms that measure magical energy and life energy. It makes me kind of uncomfortable, but when I went looking for alternatives I got reminded all over again that English is at least three languages in a coat. English has been mugging other languages for parts since forever, and every word has traces of conquest in it, but swallowing these two whole and spitting out the actual cultural context seems a bit much.

I think I'm going with thaumic, as in thaumatology, measured in thaums ala Pratchett.
Also vitality, vital energy,probably measured qualitatively so it's flowing well or badly, positively or negatively inclined.
That's mixing greek and latin pasts into the mix, but if the Healers use Latin and the Scholars' works are literally all greek to them, that's got potential for story in it.

Elementalists don't need fancy words, they're just working with spirits of fire or ice or water or earth or air (or metal or wood, over the border, or possibly stranger things further away).

And the Priests aren't doing magic, they're praying for reliable miracles. Their background level of sanctity matters and it can be worth a quick prayer group to prepare the ground. But you can't actually cut a priest off, there are no signal deadspots when talking to deities.

And then there's the monotheists, who on the whole don't do magic, but have a surprising line in bonuses to resist it. Haven't picked a GURPS mechanism to represent that with though.

Scholars, Healers, Elementalists and Priests all roll on different crit fail tables. Or, in terms of experience, Priests risk a strong feeling of divine disapproval and maybe a need to atone before working again, but Scholars risk accidental demons.

Healers only risk accidental necromancy, and even then their odds are lower than for scholars. But deliberate necromancy is stuffing vitality where it don't stay on its own no more, and is pretty much a Healer skill.

Obviously people will feel differently about their risks as neighbours.

Some Scholars identify what others call demons as simply thaumic elementals. They believe that some are new to thought and informed as personalities, while others have developed complex personalities, but none of them are necessarily evil.

People living next door to Scholar mages who have called up demons and set all kinds of bizarre consequences in train look sideways at those guys and wonder what their definitions are.

Elementalists bond with their elementals and come to resemble them in character. This is a feedback loop, since they need enough in common in the first place to make friends with a pure spirit of that element, and they need to like what it represents enough to want to. Elementals maybe might be influenced in turn, become more domestic than their wild kind, but that's debatable. Any elemental magic can lead to an elemental cutting loose in a rage. That might be a newly summoned elemental or it might be the spirit someone has worked with all their life. As with Scholars, no matter how careful they are,there's an irreducible risk.

Most people look at the wild impulsive destructive rages of a fire elementalist or the utter lack of emotion of an ice bonded, and they think of the process as destructive. Priests fear for the souls of the bonded, because they can get simplified past the point they could come back human, according to current doctrine. Of course current doctrine has priests of both Luck and Judgement taking credit for reincarnation, so it's a bit of a rolling argument really.

Healers turned Necromancer want to get in contact with the spirit as well as the life force. Life is simple and transfers from body to body in food, as well as by spell work. Spirits are not so simple. Priests maintain that no necromancer can touch spirits, that they are in the hands of the gods and ultimately the Maker. Any appearance of spirits can therefore be safely attributed to deception, probably demonic.

Others think that a lot of 'demons' are straight up ghosts, holding themselves together as thaumic patterns. The theory of thaumic elementals meshes well with this, but makes a distinction between a spirit, which belongs to the living and passes on, and the impression it leaves on an elemental, which only looks like the person who made it. The basic AI upload problem, except in different terms. Leaves everyone with Hamlet's problem: is this a true spirit, can they rely on their former reputation, or is it a being made of deception and shadows, even if shadows the original cast?

This seems like an overly complicated system of magics, but I'm used to comics where people can do very similar things through power sources ranging across everything GURPS can throw at them.

Distinct traditions with distinct histories and as far as they know sistinct power sources is a great way to leave loopholes, contradictions, and other sources of friction.

And yet I keep fiddling with rules and phrasing, instead of writing fiction.

xposted from Dreamwidth here. comment count unavailable comments. Reply there
Tags: fantasy, gurps
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