Arcanis Gift Clarification

The primary purpose of this proposal is to provide better guidelines around the "color" of the Arcanis gifts, so that all players can get a better understanding of what is allowable, and thus have a better notion and consistency of what they can do or consent to.

Currently, the bulk of the descriptions for the Arcanis elemental gifts is incorporated into the terms, very little being contained in the commands. Furthermore, the descriptions for each command within these are specific but also vague. For example, creation spells say what they can create, but do not describe a range. For example, is a "fireball" a creation of fire at a given location, or must it be created at the caster, and then flung. While this seems like color, there is a system effect. If it can be created at range, then a mage knowing just ARC-FI ARC-CR ARC-BM can attack with it. But if it must be flung, it takes ARC-CN too, which means that it takes having ARC-SM in order to perform this attack in one pose, unless a source of fire is already present. Given the prereqs for ARC-SM, this can be quite a limiting factor for those who are not adepts.

The specificity of the descriptions also brings up the question of whether they are merely examples, or are meant to limit effects to only those described. If limiting, this brings up some questions:

  • inconsistencies between how the commands work on various elements
  • how the commands are supposed to work when elements are hybrids, using ARC-EM
  • how one can use the spells as described to attack using ARC-BM/BA.

My opinion is that since Pathi is supposed to represent "high magic", and its wizards renowned and perhaps feared, that being limited to only the effects mentioned are not in-theme. Thus, I would suggest that the descriptions should use more "meta-language" allowing everyone (including those that are only seeing a single declare) to have a good sense that what the character is posing is permissible.

Another question that often comes up is: what "forms" are allowed? For example, it has been clarified via a +submit that ice is a form of water. Is fog? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. One could argue that creating fog requires ARC-EM, as it is a hybridization with air. But perhaps destroying fog can be accomplished with just ARC-WA, as drying out the air is not much different than drying out anything else that is soaked with water.

This rewrite therefore attempts to address these issues. I have tried to keep from expanding the abilities greatly from the existing write-up, doing so only to address what I felt were the bigger inconsistencies. Also, each gift is written to be mostly self-contained, as anyone seeing the gift only as the result of a +declare would not have access to any other gift that might describe limitations or expansions upon the one being declared.

Commands

ARC-CH — Arcanis Change

The character is able to change material which they know the appropriate Arcanis Term for. Change allows one to purify or separate out impurities, alter the physical properties (e.g., density, color, temperature, etc.), convert from one sub-form to another, and reshape solid forms of terms. Individual Terms may also specify additional effects and limitations.

Any change that results in an "unnatural situation" will start to dissipate over the span of a few poses (though might persist for quite some time—e.g., ice will start to melt in a few poses, but could last for quite some time depending on the temperature and its volume) unless the wizard is there to actively maintain the effect, which precludes casting another spell at the same time.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Term that they possess. A wizard may use only one Command at a time, unless they are a Spellmaster.

ARC-CN — Arcanis Control

The character is able to control material which they know the appropriate Arcanis Term for. Control allows one to maintain an unnatural shape, and direct movement of a Term. The wizard must stay within an arms length of the Term they control, though movement thereafter need not comply. Thus, a stream or an object can be ejected at a target, but one cannot bend the flight of a Term once it has left the wizard's vicinity, or lift something at range. However, Terms that are moving towards the wizard may be deflected once they reach arms length. Individual Terms may also specify additional effects and limitations.

Any change that results in an "unnatural situation" will start to dissipate over the span of a few poses (though might persist for quite some time—e.g., ice will start to melt in a few poses, but could last for quite some time depending on the temperature and its volume) unless the wizard is there to actively maintain the effect, which precludes casting another spell at the same time.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Term that they possess. A wizard may use only one Command at a time, unless they are a Spellmaster.

ARC-CR — Arcanis Create

The character is able to create material which they know the appropriate Arcanis term for. Terms created must appear within an arms length of the wizard, though the full extent of the shape need not be. Terms may be created in geometrical forms. Individual terms may also specify additional effects and limitations.

Any change that results in an "unnatural situation" will start to dissipate over the span of a few poses (though might persist for quite some time—e.g., ice will start to melt in a few poses, but could last for quite some time depending on the temperature and its volume) unless the wizard is there to actively maintain the effect, which precludes casting another spell at the same time. However, if the term results in tangible matter (water, etc.) regardless of shape, it will remain as long as is natural.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Term that they possess. A wizard may use only one Command at a time, unless they are a Spellmaster.

ARC-DE — Arcanis Destroy

The character is able to destroy material which they know the appropriate Arcanis Term for. Destroying a Term removes it from the wizard's vicinity (approximately, an arm's length, though only a portion of an larger object (within reason) need be inside this range. Also, Destroy may be used to prevent a Term from entering the wizard's vicinity, which is equivalent to a ward. Individual Terms may also specify additional effects and limitations.

Any change that results in an "unnatural situation" will start to dissipate over the span of a few poses (though might persist for quite some time—e.g., after drying out a stream-fed pond, once the spell ends, it will start to refill at a natural rate) unless the wizard is there to actively maintain the effect, which precludes casting another spell at the same time.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Term that they possess. A wizard may use only one Command at a time, unless they are a Spellmaster.

ARC-UN — Arcanis Understand

The character is able to understand material which they know the appropriate Arcanis Term for. Understanding a Term allows for a wizard to cast their perception through a contiguous body of that Term that is in the wizard's vicinity (approximately an arm's length) for a distance corresponding to the about the equivalent of the horizon. This perception is enhanced (magnified, intensified) over what would be expected with normal senses, though it does decrease with distance (effectively, this is the equivalent of using a fairly powerful telescope through air). Individual Terms may also specify additional effects and limitations.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Term that they possess. A wizard may use only one Command at a time, unless they are a Spellmaster.

Meta-Commands

ARC-BM — Arcanis Battlemage

The wizard may use their magic in combat, directing the Terms they know like a weapon, making weapons of the Term, and generally using the Term in a dramatic fashion. This allows magic to be targeted against something that has any kind of defense (whether that be due to its ability to dodge, or to be resistant to effects), and allows for effects to form fast enough to be useful for combat.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one each of an appropriate Arcanis Command and Term that they possess.

ARC-BA — Arcanis Battlemaster

The wizard may use their magic in combat, directing the Terms they know like a weapon, making weapons of the Term, and generally using the Term in a dramatic fashion, and receiving a bonus when doing so. Effects may be more potent, more accurate, or quicker in casting as a result. This allows magic to be targeted against something that has any kind of defense (whether that be due to ability to dodge, or be resistant to effects), and allows for effects to form fast enough to be useful for combat.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one each of an appropriate Arcanis Command and Term that they possess.

ARC-EM — Arcanis Elementalist

The character may use more than one Term at once, allowing them to mingle and create hybrid elements:

  • Air + Earth = Dust/sand storm/cloud

Note: the original just said "sand" but in this reworking, a pile of sand is simply a sub-form of earth

  • Air + Water = Fog
  • Air + Fire = Smoke
  • Water + Earth = Mud
  • Water + Fire = Steam
  • Fire + Earth = Magma (use earth volume limits).

This does not allow spells that operate on two segregated Terms at once, e.g., creating a slab of stone on which a fire burns.

With this gift, most natural, non-living materials can be manipulated in accordance with their dominant element. A wizard is still limited to a single Command, unless they are also a Spellmaster.

ARC-RT — Arcanis Ritual

A wizard can, by expending a great deal more time and effort, expand the scope of their Arcanis effects. In play this requires a great deal of work — ritual components, magic circles and so on — enough so that it requires the character be reasonably uninterrupted, so it's unsuitable for hectic environs, like the battlefield. Such rituals must be represented by the creation of a 3-Focus token using this gift. This token CANNOT be consumed for a bonus.

This improves the amount of material the character can affect by several orders of magnitude. For rough guidelines:

  • Earth - A single crude structure
  • Air - A storm (weather magic in Amber works on only a highly localized level)
  • Water - A small lake
  • Fire - A burning building

These are loose guidelines, and if effects are temporary, showy or mere color, they may exceed these guidelines. The main limit is that the effect is localized. It should not exceed one 'location', though that restriction is intentionally fuzzy.

ARC-SM — Arcanis Spellmaster

The wizard can use more than one Command at once, allowing them to, for example, create and control a Term at the same time. They are still limited to using a single Term (unless they are also an Elementalist).

Terms

ARC-AR — Arcanis Air

The character has learned the Arcanis Term for Air and may use Arcanis Commands on it. The volume of air that can be affected is limited to a room when indoors, or about a mile in radius outdoors, though the effects diminish with distance from the wizard. Elemental air is normal, breathable air. It has no sub-forms, though a reasonable amount of temperature control is allowed, from "cool" to "warm" for color effects. Outside of this range requires an Elementalist forming a hybrid with Arcanis Water (ice) or Arcanis Fire.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Command that they possess. A wizard may use only one Term at a time, unless they are an Elementalist.

Create: Created air flows outward from the caster, in a omni-directional wind. In an area as small as a room these may be gale force, able to knock about debris and make movement difficult. Over a larger area, the force diminishes, reduces to mere breezes at about a mile radius. These effects last for a scene, then diminish naturally. They also may supply breathable air for a small group, though in an airtight environment the pressure will eventually make that useless.

It seems a bit incongruous that Create is used to create wind, which seems more like forming an elemental stream, and thus would be an effect of Control.

Destroy: In addition to air, any gas may be destroyed, up to the volume of a room. While this does not happen fast enough to create a vacuum, in a sealed environment it can be dangerous. Outdoors, winds can be stopped, usually diminishing local weather. A conversation between a small group of people may be made inaudible to those inside, though the effect is mutual—exterior sounds are blocked as well. An area in the vicinity of the wizard may also be made somewhat shielded from the surrounding air, and thus could be used to ward off inhospitable environments, such as smoke.

Again, stopping a wind seems more like an effect of Control. The ability to make an area soundless is being modeled as a ward against air movement.

Control: The potency of existing winds may be increased or decreased by half, and the direction controlled. Existing objects may be flung by the force of the wind as appropriate, though an attack using this is rarely more than annoying or distracting. A tightly controlled blast of wind may make it difficult for some to approach or stand in the open, at close ranges. However, such jets tend to disperse quickly with distance. A volume of air cannot be made impenetrable by other elements, and thus, for example, a bubble of air could not be formed underwater, or be maintained under low- or zero-pressure environments.

The inability to maintain a bubble of air against an unfavorable environment was a ruling given as the result of a +submit. However, compared with the ability to control a globe of water or fire, I might request this be reconsidered as it is somewhat inconsistent.

Understand: Air is the medium of sight and sound. Given an uninterrupted stretch of air (i.e., not blocked by an enclosing wall, and thus, is not allowed from inside a closed room to the outside), sight and sound is greatly magnified. The wizard may both see and hear at great distances, and be seen and heard as well, even around corners. The effect, however, is mutual—seeing something in this way means that someone at that location can see the wizard. Speech can be amplified to that of a megaphone, or diminished to a whisper in a single person's ear.

Change: Air may purified, making it breathable or separating out impurities, as long as there is breathable air present. The density of air may be changed, making it either easier or harder to pass through. This is effectively changing the amount of air resistance, and while it is little more than an inconvenience for anyone determined to pass, it could reduce the effectiveness or accuracy of light projectiles, particularly if the wizard is trained in battle. While it is not possible to fly, or even levitate using this method, the speed of a fall may be greatly reduced.

ARC-EA — Arcanis Earth

The character has learned the Arcanis Term for earth and may use Arcanis Commands on it. The volume of Earth that can be affected is roughly a thousand pounds (in terms of rock, this is only about 2 feet in diameter). Sub-forms of earth include: hard rock (approximately like granite), soft rock (pumice/sandstone), clay (not topsoil), sand, and dust. Refined metals are not considered to be earth.

This is a major alteration to the original, which limited earth to "a handful of pebbles". I found this very incongruous with the other elements—for example, water lets you affect a small pond. Increasing the volume to a thousand pounds, however, is quite consistent with what Control allowed you to move, and a thousand pound rock is not much more than 6 cubic feet (a sphere of less than 3 feet in diameter). If the concern was that of generating wealth (not that wealth is something of great concern in the game), it is addressed.

However, a reading of Mastery of Earth indicates a possible conflict with this redefinition of how much material can be created. It need not be, however, as the Mastery gift relates more to being able to create more "refined" items than this gift allows.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Command that they possess. A wizard may use only one Term at a time, unless they are an Elementalist.

Create: Earth that is created, in any sub-form, is an amalgam of base materials, and has little to no worth, even if refined technologically. Created earth may fill cracks in existing earth or stone works.

Control: The wizard may easily move as much as a thousand pounds of stone and earth with their hands. To an outside observer the character seems tremendously strong (or the stones tremendously light) but the reality is that the stone is manipulated by magic. Likewise, projectiles of earth may be flung from the caster, though the speed is inversely proportional with weight (e.g., light projectiles may be flung with almost the speed of a bullet, though at the limit, just at a fast run).

Destroy: The wizard may destroy earth, leaving only a reduced pile of dust. Dust itself disappears completely.

Understand: The wizard may see through Earth, allowing them awareness of anything that is touching it, and thus granting the ability to navigate in total darkness. This perception is limited to what is actually in contact with the Earth, and is not equivalent to eyesight. Thus, a wizard could tell that something was a biped or a quadruped, whether it was wearing footwear, how it was moving (rolling, stepping, etc.), and about how heavy it was. One could not distinguish between objects that are similar in such respects (and thus, between two people, if they are of similar weight).

Change: The wizard may reshape stone with their hands, as if it were no more than clay. They may also shape loose forms of earth (sand, dust) though these will not persist beyond the span of the spell. Earth may also be purified, or separated from its impurities. They may also transform one sub-form of Earth into another, of an equivalent volume (not weight).

ARC-FI — Arcanis Fire

The wizard has learned the Arcanis Term for Fire and may use Arcanis Commands on it. In general, the character may not affect more than around 100 cubic feet. Fire has no specific sub-forms, though its appearance may be altered using Change.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Command that they possess. A wizard may use only one Term at a time, unless they are an Elementalist.

Create: The wizard may create fire. Without fuel, it will vanish quickly, and it is difficult to direct (and dangerous to the wielder) but it can be dramatic.

Control: The wizard may shape fire, and allow it to burn without fuel or in inhospitable environments (such as water) for as long as the wizard concentrates. A fire may be directed or flung.

Destroy: The wizard may extinguish flames and ward against fire.

Understand: The wizard may understand what a fire is currently burning or get a less complete sense from cold ashes. They might be able to toss a book into a fire, and know it as if they had read it, but from ashes the wizard would only know that a book had been burned, its title, and general subject matter. If an incombustible item is within a fire, they will know its general shape, composition, and location. The wizard always can tell how hot a fire burned, how long it has burned, and how long ago it went out.

Change: The wizard may change the temperature, color, brightness, and rate of consumption of fuel of a fire. They may also make the fire selective in what it burns. While an item that is hard to burn may be consumed, an object must be reasonably burnable to be used as a source of fuel.

ARC-WA — Arcanis Water

The wizard has learned the Arcanis Term for water and may use Arcanis Commands on it. They generally are limited to an amount of water roughly equivalent to a small pond. A sub-form of water is ice. Also, a reasonable range of temperature is allowable, from freezing to an upper limit of a "hot beverage", though this should be used for color only, and not for an attack. Such usage requires an Elementalist to form a hybrid with Arcanis Fire.

Note: given that ice is an allowed sub-form (clarified by a +submit), it would seem that some aspect of temperature control should be allowed, particularly on the "cold" side. But on the "hot" side, this requires a hybridization with fire. However, it seems that as long as it doesn't provide for much in the way of injuring someone, it would be nice to allow a water wizard to make tea.

The wizard must speak and pose this usage, which requires including at least one appropriate Arcanis Command that they possess. A wizard may use only one Term at a time, unless they are an Elementalist.

Create: The wizard may create water, though it takes continued concentration to maintain a shape outside of a vessel. The temperature of liquid water can be specified as described above. A limited amount of dispersion is possible, and thus a coarse spray such as rain is possible, but a fine dispersion like fog requires elementalism and Arcanis Air.

Control: The wizard may direct water, causing it to flow as desired—allowing it to run uphill, part or otherwise behave in impossible ways. The volume of such a stream directed against most objects or people can be made great enough to push them away, unless it has great strength and a way to anchor itself.

Destroy: The wizard may destroy water, drying things out. This includes clearing an area of precipitation, such as fog or rain.

Understand: The wizard may perceive any object that is in contact with a contiguous stretch of water, allowing them to effectively perceive great distances (however, this is not unlimited, even in a large body of water like an ocean—consider the limit to be effectively the equivalent to a "horizon" for sight, though this is unaffected by water quality). Only the part of an object or creature in contact with the water can be known, and thus, only the size, shape, material, and motion of a boat can be readily known. Likewise, if a person is walking through a shallow stream, only their feet would be perceived, though if they were swimming, the wizard would be able to effectively see their outline, which would be colorless, much like a sculpture.

This capability has been added to make the command similar to other elements. However, in reading Mastery of Water, this capability has been made part of it instead. In my opinion, this belongs in the non-Mastery gift, as it is equivalent to the capability of the other elements.

Water is also the classic element for scrying, and given a proper vessel filled with still waters, the wizard can look upon people they know. Their name is spoken over the scrying vessel, and if the target is near to a reflective surface or an object containing water, their name can be heard faintly, as no more than a whisper, which can be heard by anyone within range. If the target nears a reflective surface during this time (or after a short delay if already near), the caster's image appears on that surface while that surface's reflection appears in the scrying vessel. The two may see each other and may communicate in this fashion. Both surfaces must be large enough to comfortably be viewed through, meaning they must either be large or be in close proximity (such as a hand mirror). This limitation makes it very difficult to use this method to spy on a target. As a rule of thumb, for a surface to be suitable for communication, the character needs to be in a position where they could conceivably fix their hair and makeup, which is to say the image must be clear, and it must be of a reasonable size. Communication is easily stymied by simply leaving the area of reflection or marring the surface or otherwise disrupting the conduit. Even something as simple as tapping on the glass can dispel such an attempt at communication.

The concept of there being some sort of "warning" or "notice" has been added, mostly to provide for a rationalization of the color. This gives a reason as to why this communication ever forms at all—consider how often you are in range of a mirrored surface during a day. Practically speaking, in the original, people just "happened" to be in range if they wanted to be, perhaps even in unlikely scenarios, like traveling. Also, the warning adds to the ability to avoid communication if one wants to. The addition of having it tie more closely with water even on the target's end was to make it more like an effect involving water rather than mirror magic.

Change: The wizard may purify water, or separate out all its impurities. Almost any liquid can be turned into water, or separated into its components in this fashion. Also, changing ice to water, or the reverse, as well as heating or cooling liquid water between the range of almost freezing to "beverage hot", is possible.

The above note discussing temperature control is applicable here as well.