Magic of Cadameria: Part 1

We’re continuing our worldbuilding today because I haven’t played any Ironsworn yet and I don’t have any ideas on what to blog about. Hey, it’s not my fault my life is boring. Or maybe it is, I don’t know. Today I’ll try and expand on a concept we introduced in our previous posts on Worldbuilding – magic. This post will be using Glintstone and our setting of Cadameria as a base, but it can be taken as a generic ‘how to add magic to your setting’ post, so hopefully that’s how it adds value to your life, if you’re not interested in Cadameria as a setting.

Magic is such a big topic on worldbuilding that I feel it’s impossible for us to tackle the entire magic system of the setting of Cadameria in one blog post. So expect more of these. For now, we’ll be brainstorming some ideas, see what we like, what we could do with the ideas we have. We’ll remain fluid – some ideas may end up in the trash, and some aspects of worldbuilding may necessitate a whole revamp of the setting.

Cadameria may not exist by the end of this exercise. Fair warning. 

Now: magic. When introducing magic into a world, there has to be a reason. That reason could be as mundane as ‘magic is cool’ to an entire philosophy or message that you’re trying to push through with its addition. For us, we are trying to create a world where one city has a monopoly on magic, so much so that it becomes a magocracy, or city ruled by the most powerful mages. That is a good enough reason, I suppose.

Furthermore, we introduced Glintstone as a source of magic and its use in that society. This is due to my hundred hours in Elden Ring; hey, if you can’t be creative, steal other peoples’ work and change it so the teacher doesn’t catch you. It’s a time honored art tradition. Our definition of Glintstone usage was very broad – you could touch it and it would ‘discharge’, whatever the hell that meant, and it could be infused into spices and plants to give them magical properties. So that is how much we have to work with to define magic in our world. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.

I suppose we can define some of the main questions we have about Glintstone by using the 5W 1H system – Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. I find that if you’re curious about a topic, listing these down generally helps. So here they are with regards to Glintstone:

  1. What does Glintstone actually do? What are its properties?
  2. Who discovered Glintstone and how do we know these properties?
  3. How is Glintstone used in society? Who uses it, and how is its usage regulated?
  4. Where do you find Glintstone? Is it mined, synthesised, called down from the heavens, what?
  5. When did Glintstone usage become mainstream? Is it new, making Cadameria a relatively new power, or is it old, so that the city has a storied past and tradition?
  6. Why do people use Glintstone? In other words, how does its usage improve upon peoples’ lives? What could they do now that they couldn’t do before?

That last question is the most intriguing to me. It reminds me of that old joke. Let me see if I can’t find it. Ah, here we go:

When NASA started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C. 

The Russians used a pencil.

Snopes has thoroughly debunked that one, but the lesson stands in our case. Why use a Glintstone pen when you have a perfectly good quill? Why start the car up when the trip is a five minute walk? Why use magic at all if doing things without magic was, in all ways, better?

The answer to this is a lot more complicated and entangled than it first appears. People use tools because it makes doing stuff easier. We developed hand axes and choppers because it made it easier to cut stuff than biting it or using our bare hands. Later when we discovered metals it was worth the metallurgical cost of mining, smelting and forging because the metal stuff we had was harder, sharper, and lasted way longer than stone tools. The fact that bronze looked more bitchin’ than stone weapons was a bonus. It’s kind of like Green Arrow’s infamous boxing glove arrow. Why shoot a boxing glove arrow at someone when you could just, you know, punch them?

So it is with Glintstone; some aspect of life should be improved with its usage. The question is, how? And so the question of why people use magic is thus entangled with Question number one: How does it work? This basically becomes the prime question for your magic system, as it can help define why people use it as opposed to just doing what non magic users can. When we know how it works, we can ask how people discovered how magic works as well. These can also inform our answers as to how it’s used in society.

As for Glintstone, I defined it a bit in the story Merchant of Death; it holds a ‘charge’ which can be released by touch. We also saw Waheed add it to his spice and describe its use in growing magic herbs. Hadrian used a Glintstone ‘call button’ and a Glintstone quill to take dictation (beat that, NASA). It seems that, subconsciously, I thought that Glintstone could ‘hold’ something and release it at a moment of the user’s discretion. There’s also mention of Lord Vykstra’s ‘Glint lined veins’, and adding to what happened to him it seems that Glint is safe to consume. That last part ties in to Question number two: Who the fuck thought eating Glint was a good idea?

But anyway, we have some broad ideas on how it works. Glintstone holds charges which can be released at the user’s discretion. Now the idea comes – what ‘charge’ does it hold? How do you ‘charge’ Glintstone? We saw Hadrian’s call button emit light and a noise. How did we go from that to allowing it to take dictation if attached to a quill? Or allowing one to bend time when used as fertilizer for a herb? How does it affect one who ingests it, like Lord Vykstra does?

I don’t fully have the answers, I’ll have to admit. But something struck me when I realised that people eat Glint. Lord Vykstra has Glint in his veins, meaning he probably ate so much that his whole body was full of Glint. This is one facet of ‘How is Glintstone used in society’, and it can possibly guide us to what it can do. This got me thinking; outside of nutrition, why do people eat stuff? I’m thinking of something like medicine or herbs, where you eat something to have its properties run through your veins. Of course, said properties depend on how what you ate reacts with your body. It must be beneficial, if Lord Vykstra ate so much it lined his veins. 

Here’s a thought; swallowing Glint allows one to store the charge within oneself. In that case, our assassin was lucky he didn’t try to kill Lord Vykstra directly. The magus would have still had some tricks up his sleeve. But that doesn’t explain why the assassin didn’t think of that. He would have known. I’ve established him as the meticulous kind of assassin. Of course we could just rule all of this non-canon, but another idea just came to me; maybe Lord Vykstra had a lot of Glint in his body due to plain exposure, from working with it with his hands. He is a Grand Magus in the Schola, after all. It would make sense for him to have some research projects ongoing (maybe even why he was assassinated in the first place). It would make so much sense for him to have this Glint in his veins due to working with it, the way a scientist working with radioactive materials would need to get scanned frequently to determine their level of exposure. 

So we can for now assume that people didn’t actually eat Glint – not as a matter of course, anyway. Its consumption isn’t that far off the menu as we can see from the assassin’s muted response to Waheed’s spice, but that’s not the usual way it’s used. That’s one question answered. I know it sounds like we’ve done a lot of thinking just to say ‘No’ to something, but this illustrates another thing I think we should keep in mind as we worldbuild; knowing where we don’t want to be is as helpful as knowing where we want to go.

We made some headway through this whole thing. We learned that people didn’t normally eat Glintstone, and it holds a charge. We now need to figure out how to charge Glintstone, and what can be inserted into a Glintstone charge to achieve the effects of the spice and Hadrian’s quill. That doesn’t go into the other questions we’ve raised. We may put a pin on this and continue to answer the other prompts in the Journal, but rest assured – we will come back to this question someday.

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