Imperial magicians who have studied the lore of the realms can use mana crystals to manipulate a realm to create magic effects. The most effective way to do this is to master one or more of the formulaic rituals that are part of Imperial Lore, but the outcome of these rituals is fixed. If a magician wishes to achieve an entirely new effect, something not contained in Imperial Lore, then they will need to prepare an arcane projection to create the spontaneous ritual effect.
A good understanding of the theory of ritual magic is essential for creating effective spontaneous magic. There are the known laws of magic that govern the rules by which it operates, as well as its limits and the role of eternals in magic. This page summarizes common Imperial knowledge about the power of the realms.
Resonance and Dissonance
Ritual magic is not limitless in scope and there are a number of fundamental laws that are common to all the realms, and certain limits that it cannot easily overcome. In addition to this, each of the six realms (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Day and Night) have strengths and weaknesses, often referred to as resonance and dissonance. Where a realm is resonant with a theme, rituals that produce that outcome are easier to cast using that realm than any other. For example, the Spring Realm is resonant with healing magic, so rituals that heal the wounded are easier to perform using the Spring realm than any other realm.
Where a realm is dissonant with a theme, then it is much harder to create a ritual effect that produces that outcome, if it is even possible. For example, the Autumn realm is dissonant with healing magic, it can repair broken items and damaged buildings, but it has almost no ability at all to heal the wounded.
The Law of Intent
Sometimes called the first law of magic, the Law of Intent stipulates that a formulaic ritual can achieve only what the ritual was designed to do. Many magicians claim it is called formulaic magic for this very reason. The ability of Rivers of Gold to enhance the production of a business by 180 rings is the fundamental intent of the ritual. It is not possible to perform the ritual on a mine or a farm, nor to cast it with more mana crystals to get more money. The ritual can only be performed exactly as it was originally intended when it was formulated.
At first glance, spontaneous magic appears to offer a more flexible alternative, but the truth is that it is no more flexible than formulaic magic and often less so. Some variations can be part of a formulaic ritual, if the ritual is designed and constructed that way. When a magician creates a ritual projection to create a spontaneous effect, they must specify the intent of the ritual as exactly as possible. This can be much more demanding than an equivalent formulaic ritual - for example an arcane projection to divine the properties of a magical item would be useful only for that magical item.
The Law of Presence
The magic of the realms is most effective on things that are present, and creating effects at range is much more difficult. Common spells such as weakness, or heal require the caster to be close enough to touch the target or else use an implement to deliver the spell. Ritual magic can overcome this limitation but only by drawing on other laws of magic to supplant the Law of Presence.
The Law of Dominion
The Law of Dominion is an important way to overcome the limitations of the Law of Presence when performing ritual magic. Authority over somebody or something creates a magical link that flows from the being with power to the subject of their authority. A general with command of an army, or any Imperial citizen who owns their own personal resource are both effective examples of the Law of Dominion.
A common use for this law allows rituals that are designed to enhance the production of a resource can be cast at Anvil provided the owner of the resource is present. Likewise a general can be used as to provide an arcane connection to the army they command, regardless of the distance. The Imperial regio is the most powerful expression of this law, providing as it does an arcane connection to every territory in the world that falls under the dominion of the Empire.
The Law of Bonds
The create bond spell commonly creates a magical link between an individual and their items. Such links are essential in most cases if the owner is to make use of the item, but they also come with a known risk. Magicians have created formulaic rituals that use the Law of Bonds, the link between the item and its bonded owner to affect the target (usually with a curse) even when they are not present.
Similar bonds are created between an individual and a band to which they belong. These bonds can also be used in formulaic rituals that try to employ the Law of Synergy to affect more than one target. Where a ritual has the right intent, it is possible to use the Law of Bonds to affect multiple band members present with a single casting.
The Law of Scale
Magical rituals operate on a natural scale, a size at which they are most effective. Although it is possible to reduce the magnitude of these rituals by making them less potent, doing so provides rapidly diminishing returns. Often there is a minimum threshold beneath which the magic simply stops working altogether.
For example, the 150 magnitude ritual Quickening Cold Meat calls a thousand spirits from the Winter realm to inhabit nearby corpses. An identical formulaic ritual to call forth only five hundred spirits might only be magnitude 140.
The natural scale for a ritual is usually set by the nature of the intended target. Rituals that target individuals or groups are much lower magnitude than rituals that target an army. The Law of Scale makes it increasingly difficult to create a ritual that affects an Imperial army that is lower than magnitude 70.
Magicians are usually more interested in creating more powerful versions of existing rituals, making them more potent or longer lasting. While this is always possible, similar penalties apply when attempting to exceed the natural scale of a ritual. A ritual that grants someone two ranks of endurance is always more than twice the magnitude of a ritual that grants a single rank.
The Law of Transience
The natural duration of most enchantments is a season. It is possible to create enchantments that last for longer than this time, but the difficulty and magnitude of the ritual rises exponentially as the duration increases. One of the few exceptions to this are the rituals developed by Marcher landskeepers to improve the productivity of farms. A year is the natural cycle of any farm, which is what allows the rituals to span this duration without becoming infeasible.
Enchantments with shorter duration are eminently possible, and are usually easier to create than an equivalent ritual that would last a season. However the difference is much less than might otherwise be expected, an enchantment that lasts only a day can be easily two thirds the cost of one that lasts three months. There are two common exceptions to this rule - both curses and effects that conceal (primarily found in the Night realm) regularly have a year duration. While it is possible to create enchantments that last for a year, they are significantly more expensive than those which last for only a season.
Only the inclusion of ilium in a ritual allows it to exceed this natural limitation of magic.
The Law of Synergy
The best way to make formulaic rituals more effective is to perform them on multiple targets at the same time. Rituals designed to take advantage of the Law of Synergy allow the ritualists to perform a single ritual that will affect more than one target for less than the cost to perform each individual ritual. The limits of the power that can be achieved using the Law of Synergy are thus set by the skill of the magicians attempting the ritual, rather than the inherent magnitude of the ritual.
The Law of Synergy often needs to be combined with the Law of Bonds to work effectively. Many formulaic rituals are designed so that they can be cast on members of the same banner, sect, or coven.
It is not possible to use the Law of Synergy with spontaneous magic. It is possible to create a spontaneous effect that covers a fixed number of targets, but you can cannot make an arcane projection for an effect whose magnitude changes the more targets you add in. Only a formulaic ritual is sufficiently complete to allow the flexibility to affect a variable number of targets and take advantage of the Law of Synergy in this way.
The Law of Boundaries
Non-magicians are sometimes surprised that the boundaries drawn on maps can have an effect on magic. In practice is it more the case that the things that affect where territory and region boundaries are drawn, the course of a river, the eaves of a forest, or a range of mountains also affect magic.
Powerful formulaic rituals that target a wide area are often limited in their extent to a single region or territory. The power of the magic is constrained by these natural boundaries limiting its extent. The Law of Boundaries can also be important when combined with the Law of Synergy. The resources owned by Imperial citizens have an intrinsic connection with the territory they are situated in and it is often possible to use this link to create formulaic rituals that target one or more resources in a territory.
The Law of Essence
Everything that exists in the realms or in the mortal world has an essence, a set of essential qualities that make it what it is. Magic can relatively easily change the accidental properties of a thing, but the more fundamental the qualities of something are, the harder they are to change. For example, Spring magic can be used to heal an individual preternaturally quickly, provided that their wounds have been tended and they would have recovered anyway. It cannot heal a traumatic wound, because it is not in the nature of such wounds to naturally recover in time.
The Law of Essence is particularly important for some Night magic rituals that create a glamour to change the accidental properties of something but not the essence, but it is also important in other realms. Powerful magicians can influence chance, make things stronger or weaker, but they cannot make something do something completely outside its nature. They cannot make water burn, or stone float in the air, they cannot make a person fly or create a rain of fire. The Law of Essence is relevant in spellcasting as well - the operate portal cantrip targets a structure whose essential nature is that of a portal or gate. It won't affect any structure or object that doesn't have these essential qualities.
The Spring realm is powerfully resonant with healing magic, but no Imperial magician has ever been able to create a ritual that restores life to the dead. Some Winter magics allow a magician to contact the recently departed, or even summon back a shade that can be questioned, but like the Spring realm it appears to be powerless to help those who have passed on. In Empire, once a person dies, they are dead for good.
Many magicians have spent their entire lifetime searching for ways to cheat death. None have ever found a way to restore the dead to life, but a few have found ways to cheat death, or at least postpone it for a while. Although there are no rituals of this kind in Imperial Lore at this time, anything like this would definitely need to be cast on the target while they were still alive.
There are rituals that allow a magician to give a semblance of life to a corpse, the most famous of which is Quickening Cold Meat. However these rituals work by conjuring creatures from the realms, usually drudges, to inhabit the corpse and cause it to move. The Winter realm has a strong affinity for magic involving dead bodies, but rituals of this kind make use of the body to house a spirit of the realm, they do not restore the body to life in anyway.
It is possible to use the Winter realm to create wards that harm those who cross them, and Night magic can hide the true nature of something, but beyond this there are few if any rituals that can offer protection to a subject. No magician has ever been able to create a ritual that allows the subject to resist a magical effect such as that caused by the repel spell. Nor is it possible to use ritual magic to make a subject immune to the blows of swords, bows, or other weapons. There are many rituals that make a subject stronger, allowing them to suffer more such blows before they are defeated, but none that make it so that the subject can resist or otherwise ignore the effect.
Many rituals create powerful emotions, feelings, or sensations in those that experience the effects, either as a side effect of the magic or as the main purpose such as The Chamber of Pallas. These rituals can have a powerful effect on those that encounter them, but all serious magicians agree that the nature of the target's response is fundamentally set by them, not by the magician who performed the ritual. Magic is simply not powerful enough to control the mind of another living being, forcing it to act as the ritualist desires.
Of course there are ways to use magic to control your enemies, using it to threaten, cajole and coerce people. However these methods are not intrinsically more reliable or powerful than a threat of violence. Skilled magicians can use ritual magic very effectively to influence others, but they cannot control them.
In the same way, magic cannot compel someone to speak the truth, and it cannot read minds. This means that there is no effective "truth detection" magic in the Empire. It is possible to create an urge to be forthright or plain speaking, but it is not even possible to create a roleplaying effect that makes a character want to speak the truth.
It is not possible to use ritual magic to force another being to appear before you, either a mortal or an inhabitant of the realms. There are Autumn rituals that allow you to send communications to another being, such as Call Winged Messenger, but the target is free to respond as they chose. They are under no compulsion to respond and they would need to use methods of their own to appear if they were far distant at the time.
Likewise, there are rituals that allow you to contact certain named eternals, such as Swim Leviathan's Depth. Some of these rituals create an opportunity to meet with the being at a regio later. Almost always, the eternal will appear as requested, but it is well understood that the ritual itself does not compel the being to appear, rather it is the nature of the eternal that causes them to act like that. Having long ago agreed to respond if called, they are bound to do so for all time by their nature, not by the ritual itself.
It is possible to create rituals that request or invite inhabitants of a realm to enter the mortal world, albeit only with their agreement, but it is not possible to summon them.
It is possible for magicians and others to move from the mortal world to a regio, but they cannot travel on from there, they must return to the mortal world through the same door they entered by. It is not possible to move onwards from a regio, nor to re-enter the mortal world in a different location. This limitation is a fundamental restriction of magic of the realms - it cannot convey a magician from one place to another.
A ritual like Call Winged Messenger will convey a message to a target, but this ritual works by literally summoning a winged messenger from the Autumn realm to carry the message. It takes time for the message to reach the target, it does not travel instantly.
Interestingly this limitation is violated by the power of the Sentinel Gate. The Gate is a magical item, and as such it is a thing of the mortal world only and does not draw on the power of the realms. Whether it is this that allows it to exceed the limits of ritual magic is unknown, but certainly all attempts to reproduce the power of the Gate using ritual magic have always failed.
Although Varushkan folk lore is replete with stories of wolves that are invisible, undetectable to the mortal eye, most magicians consider these tales fit only for a child. There have been countless attempts to use Night magic to render an individual invisible, but none have ever succeeded. The Night realm can mask a thing, change its shape or appearance, but it always leaves something in its place. There is no realm that can be used to make something invisible.
Although Night magic resonates with glamours that change the physical appearance of something, as well as rituals designed to baffle and divinations it cannot hide itself. If an army is enchanted with a Night ritual to conceal it then a divination like The Eye of the High Places that is lower magnitude than the shroud will still reveal that there is a Night enchantment in place. Similarly it is not possible to use Night magic to baffle a ritual divination so completely that it returns the wrong answer.
Enchant Bourse Resources
Mithril, white granite, weirwood and ilium are the most precious resources found anywhere in the Empire, so valuable that control of known deposits is closely regulated by the Imperial Bourse. Countless attempts have been made over the centuries to develop ritual magic that can increase the production of these resources, but all have failed. Even attempts to scry for unworked deposits have proved unsuccessful.
Urizen magicians who have studied the problem for many years have concluded that materials of this kind have a degree of raw magical power inherent in them. This power appears to be a fundamental part of the mortal world, rather than having any connection with the realms. When the materials are in their unworked state waiting to be harvested, they create an interference that confounds any attempts to use the magic of the realms to locate or gather it. Sadly this natural resistance to magic is largely lost when the materials are removed and refined or processed.
So potent is this natural effect, that it has on occasion proved useful. The deposits of white granite in the Brilliant Shore were discovered centuries ago by a young icewalker who took shelter in the area while the region was assailed by a magical storm conjured by the Thule. When the magician noticed that the storm passed over the cave where they were sheltering, they realized that something in the area must be weakening the curse. Further investigation of the cave discovered the white granite deposits, and provided the Wintermark people with a valuable resource.
Magicians can use the magic of the realms to change the mortal world, but it has an inherent tendency to resist this change. The more unnatural the change, the greater the resistance. One way that a magician can create a completely unnatural effect is to bring some force or object from the realms into the mortal world. Powerful rituals like Quickening Cold Meat summon Winter spirits to inhabit corpses so that they follow the magicians' will. The fortress "created" by Frozen Citadel of Cathan Canae is in fact one of the many that exists in the Summer realm and the ritual brings it into the mortal realm for a season.
Experienced magicians appreciate that the best approach is to create magical effects that work with the essential nature of the target rather than trying to create something unnatural. If a magician wishes to burn a forest down, it is infinitely easier to create a forest fire than it is to create a rain of fire.
Normal divination rituals use the power of the realms to glean useful information. The Day realm with its emphasis on predictability, facts and figures, provides measurements and known quantities. Divinations in other realms are usually similar, providing specific information of interest to that realm, such as the Autumn ritual Ties that Bind which lets a magician discover details about a bonded item they have an intimate connection with.
Divinations of the Night realm are unusual because the disordered chaotic nature of this realm means that divinations that draw upon it tend to provide unpredictable answers. Responses are often in the form of riddles and symbolic visions, as in the Signs and Portents ritual. These rituals tend to provide secrets and mysteries, or at least omens of them, as they have been detected by the Night realm. The realm itself makes no attempt to understand or prioritize these secrets, it only perpetuates them.
In neither case is it possible to create a ritual that asks a question of the realm itself. The realms are not sentient and they cannot analyse information to provide conclusions, opinions, or judgements The only way to create such a ritual is by involving an eternal of that realm. There is only one such ritual currently in Imperial Lore; Swim Leviathan's Depths asks Leviathan to answer a specific question. Leviathan will answer the question, but can only do so based on the knowledge it has. Involving a sentient agent in this way makes it possible to achieve something that would not normally be possible; but at the risk of Leviathan not knowing the answer or even simply being wrong.
Arcane projections for spontaneous divination effects must specify very precisely the information that is wanted and the subject of the divination. Such projections cannot be used to glean other information or even be cast on a different subject. Only formulaic magic possesses this degree of flexibility. For example, it is easy to make an arcane projection that determines information about the history of a specific item; it is not possible to create an arcane projection that lets the ritualist perform that spontaneous effect on any item.
Divinations that deal with esoteric information are likely to only ever exist as spontaneous magic that targets a specific named item - one where we can be confident the desired information exists. Likewise it is only ever possible to use divination magic to gain information the referees have reliable access to.
The Role of Eternals
A number of formulaic rituals in Imperial Lore carry the name of an eternal indicating that they involve the active co-operation of that creature. All eternals are sentient and able to communicate - in a way that the realms fundamentally are not. A formulaic ritual or spontaneous effect that involves an eternal allows magicians to perform magic with the active assistance of an intelligent power of the realm, rather than simply drawing on the realm's natural resonance. This cooperation allows magicians to create an effect that can exceed the normal limits of magic, so such rituals are especially valuable.
Eternals are not gods, but each eternal has a palette of abilities that come from an innate connection to the magic of their realm. Paradoxically, a coven of magicians is often capable of a wider array of magical effects than an eternal is, even when using the magic of that realm. For example, while Leviathan has a range of powers related to divination, it has little ability to purify venom or help a warrior to strike down their foes. Attempting to secure Leviathan's assistance to create a personal combat enchantment, for example, is doomed to failure.
The nature of eternals is such that once their agreement is procured it cannot be renounced, so most eternals are reluctant to agree to such arrangements. Imperial magicians who abuse these rituals will soon incur the wrath of the eternal whose patience they try. This means that eternals are often cautious about having rituals that secure their assistance entered into Imperial Lore.
It is not possible to create a ritual that involves an eternal without their solemn agreement to be bound to that ritual. A magician who wishes to create a spontaneous effect involving an eternal must first procure their consent. The nature of this consent varies from one eternal to another - but in most historical cases, the eternal provided the mage with a token of some kind, an arcane symbol of their agreement.
The length and nature of the negotiations are likely to be dependent on the nature of the eternal. Some will request payment from the magician creating the ritual. Others may ask for political favours from the organisation that backs them. It is common for the magician to create a ritual in such a way that the power of some of the mana crystals used to cast it is tithed to the eternal involved, as ongoing payment.
Once the participation of an eternal is secured, the magician can create an arcane projection for the spontaneous effect they have agreed. Anyone who possess the ritual projection can use it normally, including the Dean of the Lyceum or the Provost of the Halls of Knowledge creating a formulaic version of the ritual. Eternals who understand the nature of the Empire and the workings of the Conclave are likely to discuss whether a ritual is to be added to Imperial Lore or not before they agree to be bound to it.
For example, the ritual Swim Leviathan's Depth allows a magician to ask Leviathan a single question. The question must ask why something has happened or is happening, but provided that condition is met, the Leviathan will answer the question to the best of its ability based on what it knows. It would be impossible to create such a ritual without the cooperation of an eternal - the Day realm can be used to cast a number of important divinations but you cannot query the realm directly, nor ask for its opinion.
An eternal can specify certain actions or conditions that will form the basis of the ritual - the obvious example is the precise method used for creating a Missive for Sadogua (the five-by-five grid and the inclusion of a rune). The eternal is free to ignore any attempt to perform the ritual without these components; in some cases the ritual will not function at all without the appropriate conditions being met.
Eternals may insist that certain conditions be met to secure their co-operation. For example, it is widely believed that the magicians who secured the co-operation of Ephisis in the creation of Ephisis' Scale agreed that the Empire would always support free commerce. If the Empire were to abandon this principle, Ephisis would be free to renounce the contract and this ritual would cease to function. If this happened, the ritual would fail without any effect or mana used.
In almost all known cases, the eternal stipulates behaviour by mortals that will void the agreement - no eternal has created a ritual that they themselves can choose to break. No matter what is said, the eternal is bound to the ritual once they agree to it, while the magicians who negotiate with them are free to act as they wish - if they are prepared to allow the eternal to end their association.
The eternal cannot later withdraw from the agreement should they change their mind or become dissatisfied with the other party. A spontaneous ritual projection may only endure for a season, but if it becomes a formulaic ritual then the agreement is binding for as long as the ritual is practiced. For these reasons most eternals do not enter into these agreements lightly.
Communication with an eternal is no different to any other ritual that involves that eternal. Such rituals require the binding agreement of the eternal involved - otherwise they cannot be performed either spontaneously or as a formulaic ritual. In Imperial Lore, only the Night Eternal Sadogua - often called the brother of wizards - has agreed to be bound in such a way. Any Imperial magician may perform the formulaic ritual Missive for Sadogua to contact the eternal.
No other eternal has thus far been persuaded to make themselves available to any magician who wishes to make free use of their time in this way. Most others prefer to use ad hoc methods to communicate with those they favour; providing magical items or other means to allow more limited contact. Alternatively, if a magician is able to convince an eternal to come to an appropriate regio at an agreed time then they can use the operate portal cantrip to allow the eternal to meet with them there.
Before the recent conjunction it was possible to use spontaneous magic to force a message or a package on an eternal. There was no evidence that such messages were well received, or even read. Now that the conjunction has passed, and its wake has altered the nature of spontaneous magic, it is no longer possible to manage even this.
Imperial magicians who wish to communicate with an eternal are best advised to seek them out. Either their heralds, when they are about their business in the Hall of Worlds or the mortal realm, or the eternal themselves if they enter a chamber. Most eternals that have business with the Empire will make themselves available to the archmage - if they are friendly. Some archmages take it upon themselves to facilitate communication between eternals and Imperial magicians, others prefer to control contact to ensure that these powerful agents are treated appropriately by having them deal only with their equals.
Ritual magic involving an eternal almost always involves a response of some kind from them. If the response is an item or set of items, such as the Autumn ritual Ephisis' Scale, then the response usually comes within the hour. More complex rituals such as Challenge the Iron Duke may not bring a response for many months or longer as the Master of Challenges contemplates what task to set the challenger. An eternal named in a ritual cannot delay their response but neither can it be rushed - they must take the time needed to give it their full attention.
Rituals that deal with Eternals
The following formulaic rituals are known to deal directly with an Eternal.
- Before the Throne of Estavus (Estavus)
- The Celestial Library (Phaleron)
- Challenge the Iron Duke (Barien)
- Clarion Call of Ivory and Dust (Kaela)
- Clear Counsel of the Everflowing River (Sung)
- Fire in the Blood (Arhallogen)
- Golden Ramparts (Meraud)
- Ephisis' Scale (Ephisis)
- Knights of Glory (Eleonaris)
- Missive for Sadogua (Sadogua)
- Noble Mien of the Hawk Lords (Meraud)
- Pallid Flesh of the Dead King (Tharim)
- Sorin's Rite of Agony (Sorin)
- Swim Leviathan's Depth (Leviathan)
- Tribute to the Thrice-Cursed Court (The Thrice-cursed Court)