From Dragon Eye Atlas
Revision as of 12:10, 14 July 2022 by Tom
The World Basics page gives an overview of life in general, but the world of Dragon Eye is also a magical world. The presence of magic changes many aspects of life, for some more and for some less. This page outlines how it affects life:
Before discussing true magic as the game rules have it, it should be mentioned that magic is everywhere in the world of Dragon Eye in the same way it was omni-present in ancient and medieval times in the real world. That it (largely) does exactly nothing hasn't stopped common folks from believing in their tales, traditions, small rituals, charms, curses and fertility rites.
The magic rules contain a section on Hedge and Folk Magic. In short, this type of magic almost never has any effect at all, and if so the effects are very limited and not even clearly magical (i.e. they are indistinguishable from a burst of luck). But in a world full of magic, from time to time even a commoner can tap into the flow of magic and push it just in the right way.
So unlike many fantasy books and movies, magic is not a rare thing to be feared, but something that pretty much everyone dabbles in and most folks believe that - at least sometimes - their little charms and spells actually work. (btw. here is a list of "farmers magic" that you can use for inspiration)
The rest of this page is about true magic, the powerful spells of trained mages.
Diseases of all kinds were often fatal in the middle ages, especially for young children. Around half of all children born didn't reach adulthood, and many of them succumbed to diseases and illness. Magic can cure most diseases with relative ease. However, it requires either the presence of a mage with the appropriate knowledge, or of magic potions, scrolls or artifacts that can accomplish it.
While most kings and high nobility and some of the richest commoners have both mages in their entourage and an emergency kit of healing and curing potions or scrolls stored, lesser people cannot afford such expenses. Still, for most somewhat wealthy commoners who live in or near a larger town or city, it is often possible to get hold of healing magic in an emergency.
Assassination by poison still happens, and nobles are still afraid of being poisoned, especially since no reliable general "Detect Poison" spell exists. It is possible to magically detect specific poisons, but not any and all poisons in any quantity. Most herbal and mineral poisons are just highly concentrated and are present in much lower quantities in everyday food or spices. Cyanide, for example, occurs in low concentration naturally in apple seeds, cherry pits and peach pits.
However, thanks to magic, it is much more likely to survive a poisoning and the strategies of poisoners are changed. Instead of targetting one indvidual, a poisoner will try to take out a group of targets, such as the entire royal family, in the hopes of overwhelming the Cure Poison potions available and the casting abilities of the court mage. With a good timing, he might even ensure that minor targets are helped first, exhausting the resources, before anyone realizes that the main target was also poisoned. Or he might apply different poisons to secondary and primary targets, hoping that in the heat of the moment the primary target is given an inefficient treatment and dies before anyone realizes the mistake.
Diseases allow for more time to react and more attempts at healing, so high nobility only rarely succumbs to diseases unless they take out the court mage first. Only kings generally afford multiple healing mages on staff, other high nobles might have two or three court mages, but only one of them will have advanced healing magic knowledge.
The same holds true for wounds and accidents. Infection and festering wounds are a major killer in a world that has no knowledge of microbes and whose standards of hygiene are based on religious customs if they exist at all. The ability to magically heal wounds dramatically reduces the probability of such complications. But again, battlefield healing magic is available only to the high nobility, with lower nobility sometimes getting basic treatment, especially when in an organized army with enough resources.
Only among the high-magic realms such as Palan and most elven realms is magical healing available to most troops, and the capacity is always limited and will be overwhelmed if too many wounded pour into the field hospital. Most soldiers do not carry healing potions as they are expensive and deteriorate over time. Those who carry potions also realize that you need to be able to drink them which is unlikely when you are being cut down - which is why if a soldier carries a potion, he will do so visibly so that his comrades know about it and can pour it into his mouth when he is down. An unwritten law within most militaries states that a soldier's healing potion is for him, unless he willingly uses it on someone else. Like everything in war, of course, that law is not always obeyed.
Long before healing, protection spells are a game-changer in a world with magic. Most high nobles can afford to have a protection spell cast on them before they ride into battle. Magic enhances existing armor, and it requires high-level spells to equal the protective value of a chain mail or plate armor. Most importantly, though, magic protection can be dispelled. For all these reasons, knights still ride into battle with a full set of heavy armour, and enhance it with magical protection.
Protection spells, especially against ranged weapons, are also extremely popular when a king or high noble must make a public appearance in a hostile area or has other reasons to worry about an assassination attempt. It may not stop a bolt or thrown knife completely, but it can well make the difference between a painful wound and death.
With long-duration spells being very costly, even the highest mages and kings are not under magic protection around the clock. As assassins already try to hit their targets when they are relaxed and not expecting trouble, not much has changed in these matters.
The second aspect of protection is that against magic. Unlike a bolt or throwing knife, a spell can be scaled up enough to ensure both a hit and a kill, and the only protection against that is magic. Fortunately, countermagic is relatively easy, and reactive artifacts with a trigger of the "when hit by a spell" kind are possible. Most important persons have one or more such artifacts on them. Since gemstones are a good mana store, it is often the rings, crowns and sceptres that these people anyway wear which are enchanted.
For single combat, a sword through the chest is as if not more efficient than a harmful spell. When it comes to warfare, magic brings not necessarily more damage, but one important game-changer: Area of Effect.
Almost all battle magic is large-scale effects. Siege engines such as catapults are the only medieval weapon that can cover an area, for all other weapons you need to bring a lot of them if you want to get any area effects - such as the huge archer contingents of ancient Greek and Persian armies.
But magic can accomplish that. Spells that do damage in a large area are costly and difficult, but possible. The main issue is that they need to cover a damage dimension, must be cast at range and with an area-of-effect. That means only Tier 3 and above spells need to apply for battle magic, and with the distances common on a battlefield, at least the range dimension will be relatively high as few mages join the frontlines.
Artifacts or one-use enchantments can change this, as they can be given to the frontline troops. Against a magically powerful army such as those from Palan or Aluraba, an infantry or cavalry charge could head straight into ice storms, crystal shards or other damage.
Once melee is joined, however, magic falls to the sideline. Spells do not discriminate and would hit friend and foe equally. Magic attacks will move to the archers and siege engines at the back, or the flanking cavalry. Which means that any army going against a magically superior foe will always attempt to get deeply into melee as quickly as possible, in order to minimize the amount of magic damage they need to take.
Magic also changes siege warfare. The ability to damage or destroy walls by magic gives to the world what in the real world cannons did. Walls are still important, as such siege magic is limited in effect, area and availability. But any army that is under siege will expect a breach of its walls through magic, and be prepared for it. Larger fortresses are even more strongly built with layered defenses and multiple rings of walls, so that a breach in the outer wall can be contained.
As mages are much less numerous than mundane folks, their effect is lesser the larger the conflict. In a skirmish or small battle, the side with magical support will often prevail. In a full-scale war or large battle, sheer numbers often overwhelm any magic.
Movement and Teleportation Magic
While this kind of magic has vast potential to change the world, the relative complexity and difficulty makes it rare.
For teleportation or other immediate transports, one more reason makes its use, especially by the most powerful, rare: They are perfect assassination methods. By necessity, someone using magical transport cannot be protected against magic. And teleporting him into a volcano or another certain death location is just as easy as teleporting him across the realm.
Mages themselves do regularily use flying or teleportation magic as personal transport, but its impact on the world is relatively small.
Enchanted vehicles, such as the flying ships of Palan are the only type of magic that is common for non-mages. Even so, and even in the highly magical realms, non-magical transport is by far the majority. Few goods or persons justify the expenses of magical travel.
Low-level magic that makes life easier is common wherever mages are present anyways, which largely means the courts, temples, large cities and the few universities and magic academies. As a consequence, clean water is readily available in those places and other small tasks are taken care of easily, at least for those who can afford it, so the benefits are found mostly in the homes of the nobles and the wealthy. Utility magic has a limited scope as most of its tasks are more easily done by the many servants anyway present in those places. This type of magic is the domain of the travelling mage.
Keeping secrets is a completely different challenge in a world that has magic that allows spotting or listening in on remote places. Countermagic is the only sure protection, however since scrying magic requires its target location to be specified and known to the casting mage, holding important secret meetings in changing and secret locations is a low-cost alternative that is commonly employed. It is not unusual for generals to meet in a designated hallway and from there be escorted by a servant to the actual meeting place.
Marking magic, which allows scrying spells to target the location of an object rather than a room or an area, is countered by careful keeping of meeting locations. All moveable items within these are exchanged at regular intervals or before important meetings, and they are kept free of non-essential items.
While outlawed in all corners of the world, and considered against the gods and undeniably evil, raising the dead has had some effect on world history.
Fortunately, the scale requirements and magic cost of undead armies far outweighs their usefulness and as such has always been very rare. However, small military units have been known to be returned from the dead by necromancers, and employed as raiding forces. There are also rare natural/magical events that re-animate the dead, such as the Qualong Undead Invasion.
In general, however, necromancy plays no major role in the world.