Magic and the Supernatural
Magic and Rituals
The Heartbeat of the World
It is believed that pulses of life energy wash across the world on a regular basis. Most people notice these as a sudden feeling of alertness that swiftly passes, so regular and mild that they barely notice. These pulses seem to be slowed or accelerated by areas of magical significance, such that the Heartbeat varies in rate depending on where you are. (OC: this is the REFRESH call)
Every being has a Paradigm, a belief or ideal that the Character uses to project their Soul onto the world, spending Stamina to cause supernatural effects. Individuals with a strong Paradigm can use it to store energy in their Soul as it passes through them, then focus it to their own ends. Whether that be from a Mage’s deliberate creation of a Paradigm, a priest’s faith in their God’s work, or a soldier’s discipline. This stored energy is known as Stamina.
The easiest use of the energy is to strengthen your mind against outside interference, as you use the stored Stamina to reinforce your Paradigm against meddling. The next step is being able to use the Stamina to affect the body. By channelling it into your sword-arm, feats of supernatural might are possible, beyond what anyone could achieve through physical training alone. The most subtle use of Stamina is to project it beyond the body. Generally this takes some time as you focus the power to a more complex purpose. A Focus is a shortcut that allows a user to store the memory of how to perform a Spell, letting them cast it in a few seconds as opposed to a minute or so working it out from scratch each time.
Rituals are ways of combining Paradigms, more people getting involved means more energy for the Ritual. The person leading the ritual is enforcing a defined worldview, those with them are sharing the belief that this is possible. Rituals involve putting belief onto the world.
For an individual to use a given Ritual on the same target more than once in a day is dangerous, as they are trying to fit even more energy into the same place. This tends to cause the Soul energy to rebound back into the ritualist’s face with painful consequences.
Life and Death
The Soul Iinhabits the Body during life. Divorced from the Soul, the Body is incapable of movement. Divorced from the Body, the Soul is incapable of affecting the Realm. Souls are freed from the Body and enter the Beyond after death. Bodies are freed from the Soul and return to the stuff of the Realm after death. Death and life are defined by the Soul and Body’s relationship.
The Realm, the Beyond, and the Portals between.
The Realm is the plane of existence that characters inhabit. The Beyond is a place which Strangers inhabit and from which Divine and unnatural influence flows into the Realm. Portals are places where the veil between the Realm and the Beyond is thinner than usual and denizens of the Beyond can influence the Realm. Being near the Portal helps you hear the words of your God. It also means you’re close to where Strangers come through, if you’re interested in studying them. Being near a Portal seems to weaken the Soul’s ability to regenerate its energy. Portals fade after a few years of use, but even a closed Portal is enough of a connection to the Beyond to allow the use of certain powerful rituals.
Revenants are the Bodies of the dead, given movement by a spark of their creator’s Soul energy and intent through that master’s Paradigm. The simplest are made to turn the tide of a single combat, burning through their energy in a swift, violent burst. More complex Revenants are used as labourers or servants, or set walking in huge treadmills as a source of power. All Revenants burn out much quicker near the Portal. Often temples to Aspirant, and sometimes to Builder, will have a workforce composed of Revenants. Bodies donated in this way are masked in order to preserve anonymity. Although undoubtedly useful, this practice of using dead bodies for labour is commonly seen as just plain creepy- the mask helps cover up the potential decay and static inhumanity of the body’s face. To get “masked” is a term for being raised as a Revenant which has entered into the parlance- capitalizing on this double-entendre, Explorers often declare that “Masking anything is a Sin”
For more information on how Revenants work in-play, see the glossary page on Revenants.
Gods exist somewhere in the Beyond, and inspire their Faithful to build their idea of a better world. They are believed to desire worship but more importantly, action in their name. The Inspirations of the Gods can only be heard at Portals, where the Realm is closest to the Beyond. Much of the work of Churches is taken up in cataloguing these Inspirations and determining which were the true word of their God, which were sent by meddling ritualists, and which were the temptations of Strangers. Priests can often have quite different opinions on what is important to their God. Favoured priests may be rewarded with powers useful in doing their God’s work.
To learn more about the four Gods, go to the Churches.
Sacrificing a sentient being is usually accomplished by killing someone with a sacrificial knife or or on a sacrificial altar. Owning either is usually considered evidence of Murder or membership of an illegal cult.
When you sacrifice someone, you are hijacking their soul and consuming their Paradigm. They cannot go to where they should in the Beyond. Sacrificing people is considered worse than murder, as it is a crime against the very soul.
Sacrifice can power up items, rituals etc a lot. It can also empower a person committing the sacrifice. Sacrificing someone to a Stranger gives that being the power. That being is probably better at dealing with eating Paradigms than you. It can choose how much power to give you. In order for this to work, the Stranger needs to be manifested or the power aimed with an altar or sacrificial knife.
All gods are known by their followers to detest sacrifice, especially to themselves.