The Strange Worlds Red realities are a shared reality where magic is commonplace. The inhabitants of Red include humans, magical creatures, intelligent animals, and supremely powerful insubstantial intellects that rival the power of the legendary pantheon.
Just as the more enlightened inhabitants of Yellow and Blue divide the sciences into particular schools like electro-magnetism, geology, or biology, the inhabitants of Red recognize twelve schools of magic. The twelve schools, or twelve disciplines, or twelve paths are distinct approaches to using magic. Some believe that the twelve schools are best represented by twelve pentagons that can be joined together to form a dodecahedron (think 12-sided dice). There is much discussion concerning which of these twelve "facets" are adjacent or opposite one another.
In many cases, different schools use their unique rules to achieve the same effect. Individuals may become expert in more than one school, but it is very rare for an individual to excel in more than two or three schools.
In many cases, magical creates "are of" a particular school and can employ that school's form of magic as part of their metabolism or very form. In this case they may or may not be able to employ magic themselves.
With this in mind, here are the 12 Facets
The Twelfth Facet
Channeling - Channeling of Elemental Forces involves the control (or at least influence) of the four elemental forces: Gas, Liquid, Solid, and Energy. Adepts often specialize in one of the four elements. An Adept of the School of Channeling Elemental Forces can call up various forms of their element, are protected from that element, and can even direct the element to behave as they will. Some magical creatures incorporate elemental powers to become creatures of living stone, or water, or even animated fire or electricity.
Example: The Pelmen are a race of humanoid mineral creatures created by combining the solid elemental force with the spark of life. They live in hard rock tunnels and come to the surface to trade and tend their elaborate and magical rock gardens. Pelmen can not vocalize and communicate with surface dwellers using sign language.
Metaphor - The Metaphors are best described as a race of intelligent ideas. These immensely powerful creatures personify emotions or behavior patterns or even skills. Examples include greed, gluttony, charity, remembering, path finding, invention, or gambling.There are at least 500 known "Metaphor Ghods," each representing a different metaphor and each with its own personality, ability, quirks, or agendas. These Ghods have a complicated and inexplicable relationship with each other. Many humans worship them (although few genuinely feel that they are true transcendental creator and redeemer Gods.) Most villages have one or more "Metaphor Circles" (Eidolons) that can be used to commune with a Metaphor Ghod. Sometimes charity is granted. Sometimes justice is provided (although sometimes not the kind of justice the communicants desire). Sometimes bargains are made. Acolytes of the various Ghods are willing and able to offer advice in dealing with their particular Ghod. Acolytes may be simple impoverished advisors or members of elaborate bureaucracies. Every sentient entitled to ask the Metaphor Ghod of their choice one question and receive a truthful answer.
Example: The Metaphor Ghod of Affluence is extremely popular with citizens of Heinlein's Empire. He often takes the form of a solid gold human child. Many communicants come to him for their "life question." Polk the Stable Boy asked the Ghod of Affluence for a life plan that would earn him a million gold pieces in five years of honest work. He was told to go to high Craig and enlist. After two years of arduous but not particularly dangerous work tending to the Legion's war mounts, he mustered out and was granted access to the tunnels. He traveled to Nexus City and became a porter for a group of import-export traders. After three years of informed investments, Polk was a millionaire.
Potions - Potions include plant, animal, and mineral concoctions that can temporarily or permanently enhance or alter a living being's abilities or form. Adepts may or may not specialize in a particular kind of potion, for instance Herbalist (plant), Alchemist (mineral) or Sarkists (animal). Most potions are rooted in a sympathetic approach to magic where the attributes of the potion components are intensified and assumed by the user. For instance, a potion containing phoenix ash is used in resurrection potions. A potion containing iron ore is used in a durability potion. Some potions are not consumed. They might be used a dyes, construction materials, or even as decorations. For instance, a magic dye create clothing imbue the wearer with increased charisma. Specially treated wood might create exceptionally durable weapons. Potions can also sometimes transform one material into another (although there are easier ways to accomplish this). Some magical animals can secret various kinds of potions. Some magical or non-magical animals (or even humans) may contain components that can be used to make potions.
Example: The citizens of Osage in Ilastia harvest the branches of sturdy osage orange trees and craft some of the finest bows known. The very best bows are soaked in specially prepared potions to increase their accuracy and range.
Pseudo-flesh - Pseudo-flesh is a flesh-like material that is composed of microscopic magical creatures (as opposed to biological cells). Each of these microscopic creatures is semi-independent and self aware. They are generally linked into a sort of telepathic hive mind. An organism that is composed of this pseudo-flesh is often not aware of its own composition (just as a normal human may have no knowledge what kinds of biological cells make up their own bodies.) Pseudo-flesh creatures tend to be very strong, very durable, quickly heal from wounds, and may be shape-shifters. Pseudo-flesh adepts are rare, and tend to concentrate on techniques to graft pseudo-flesh components onto normal biological entities. They have an obvious kinship with nanotinkers from more scientifically-minded realities.
Example: There are several kinds of lycanthropes, but the most dangerous are humans infected with a pseudo-flesh parasite that periodically assumes control of their form and behavior to become a ravening predator. Not limited to wolf form or even beast form, these Axis Beasts can resemble whatever monstrous form they want. Only fire and silver can harm them.
Lexigurgy - Lexigurgy harnesses the power of the written word. It is known that certain word patterns store and can release reality-altering magic that are universally known as "magic spells." Three things are needed for this to work. The spell must be written exactly correctly. The spellcaster must have an innate magical affinity for Lexigurgy.Finally, the spell caster must have an inherent ability to focus, remember, and correctly recite the written spell. Once a scroll is obtained, most literate humans or humanoid inhabitants of Red can attempt to cast a spell. The more complex the scroll, the greater the change they will fail to focus, remember, and cast at all. Also, the more complex the spell, the better the chance that the spell will be miscast. Adepts try to classify spells into levels of complexity and classify would-be spellcasters into levels of ability. In general, a high level adept can easily memorize dozens of lower level spells and use them at their convenience. A lower level spellcaster might struggle to memorize a single spell, and then miscast the spell with unpredictable or even disastrous results. There are some spells that are so simple they can be represented by a single letter or short word called a "glyph." Nearly anyone can activate such a glyph. Note that there is no direct relationship between "complexity" and "power." A glyph might release an extremely powerful but simple spell like "explode."There are also very simple spells called cantrips that once read are easy to memorize and may be used repeatedly. Examples are "Ignite" (mandatory for full citizenship in Heinlein's Empire) and "warm meat" (a favorite of carnivorous intelligent animals).
Example: Hundreds of years ago, the first invaders from the Strange Worlds entered Heinlein's Empire. They brought many destabilizing things. Concepts of Democracy, slavery, and freedom of religion were dealt with or embraced. But when you got right down to it, the most dangerous thing they brought was gunpowder. Heinlein (no fool) consulted anthropologists from both Yellow and Blue, but they only confirmed what he already knew in his gut. If firearms were introduced to the Empire, civil war would break out within twenty years. The answer was surprisingly easy. "Ignite" was routinely used by adepts to light candles or camp fires, or even pipes full of burning leaves. It was one of the easiest spells to learn, and anyone with even a little magic talent could cast an Ignite cantrip. Heretofore, Heinlein had outlawed Lexigurgy by any but approved adepts. An Ignite spell could light a candle, and it could also cause gunpowder to explode. It usually took only one exploding bullet to ruin an intricate Outworld firearm. It worked pretty well on grenades, rockets, and other explosives too. Soon, it was no longer illegal for all citizens to learn simple cantrips like Ignite. Soon, it was mandatory. It only took a few exploding machine guns and a couple good warwagon magazine hits to discourage adventurous gunman from visiting Red. Sure, there were protective spells, and even ways to adapt firearms to a magical universe. At least now there wouldn't be any native rebel alchemists making their own guns. Some people couldn't learn even a little magic. Heinlein was merciful. They weren't punished. They weren't fined or banished. Most of them lived happy and somewhat fulfilling lives, even with the forehead tattoos that forever marked their failure.
Transmorphing -The School of Transmorphing involves the actual transformation of one object in to another object. As such it overlaps with the Alchemy branch of Potion making as well as the shape-shifting branch of Pseudo-Flesh. Adepts combine an innate ability and the focus to achieve and maintain the transformation. Transmorphing can be used as a weapon (turning an opponent into a toad is a classic example) or to enhance abilities (transformation into a more powerful form). One branch of transmorphing specializes in transforming "tech" into forms that operate safely and predictably in Red.
Example: Captain Blackout eyeballed the tank. "Wandering Monster" was painted on one flank. The cannon sported the letters "TKWH" and the outline of a guitar. The tank's cannon fired and a puff of smoke lazily drifted into the air. A round impacted on the rear of the closest Russian armored car. Nothing appeared to happen. Blackout thought, "Was that a dud or a practice round?" He prepared to fire some Spam missiles. The armored car began to waiver, almost melt. Blackout stared. With an audible snap, the armored vehicle transformed into a giant toad. The toad took a confused hop and then bounded off into the woods. The Wandering Monster fired twice more, and the remaining two armored car s were also transformed into giant toads. Blackout shivered. "At the risk of being redundant," he thought. "I just hate weaponized magic." The American tank ground to a halt and the commander's hatch popped open. The commander shouted, "Yo, you up in the sky, thanks for the help." Blackout drifted down and landed on the front glacis of the tank, eye-to-eye with the commander. "Glad to be of assistance." he looked at the commander's name tag. Blackout asked, "Paxton. I'm Blackout. I guess you aren't using that fidgety caseless ammo in this one?" Paxton replied, "No sir. Only transmorphing-anti-tank rounds today. How about you? Are you from up at Wright Patterson?"
Animation - Animators take the stuff of the dead and imbue it with a semblance of life. Basic animation creates a shambling and decaying husk or a whip-quick skeleton. Advanced animation heals damage, recreates personality and knowledge, and finally restores the soul. Animators include Zombiemasters, Resurrectionists, Mummy Carvers, and true vampires.
Example: A Zombie Master envisioned a brute force approach to exploring the Strange World tunnels. He created a thousand magically animated, deathless zombies and had them start walking down the tunnel. Every week, one zombie would pop a door, see what was inside, and start trudging back to report. The army could travel about 300 miles a week (no need to stop for food, water, or sleep). As predicted, they found that the further away from Nexus City, the more distant the land. After twenty weeks, the Zombies started reporting doors that mainly opened into North and South Atlantis. Then they stopped reporting altogether.
Summoning - A summoning calls and binds magical or mundane servants. When properly performed, a servant appears, willingly completes some task, and then departs never to return. When improperly returned, the summoned "servant" can attack or even break loose entirely. Summoned creates can be animals, monsters, human specialists, other magic users, or powerful Ifrits and Ghuls. Some adepts can summon creates from other universes entirely. Others can summon tiny pseudo-flesh cells or small groups of cells.
Example: Mr. Gray said to Paxton, "Welcome to Red. Time to fulfill your part of the deal" Gray and Paxton gossiped for a while and then got down to business. "This is going to take a lot out of me," said the Wizard. "I hope it works."He began to cast spells. Half seen entities appeared and seemed to scurry over the tank, dismantling it and magically restoring it. Next the nearly unseen servants moved to the four Americans, and swarmed over them. The transformation took about ten minutes, and left the armored vehicle seemingly unchanged. A pair of yeomen carried him to the keep, leaving Paxton, Blackwell, Dougherty, and Novotny alone. "Was all that necessary?" asked Blackwell."Completely necessary," answered Paxton. "I just hope this works." said Dougherty. "This is a good tank, but if Gray's spells didn't work, we have about ten million dollars worth of ballast." Paxton could only smile. He took a Zippo lighter from his pocket and tossed it over to Dougherty. "I keep this for good luck," he said. "Gray's gremlins didn't convert it. Try it."Dougherty tried flicking the lighter five or six times, but couldn't even draw a spark. "You could flick it all day," said Paxton. "A lot of technology just doesn't work here. That's why Gray had to convert the Wanderer here." He patted one of the tracks affectionately. Paxton continued, "What's worse, a lot of our technology can be easily compromised by the locals. Lots of people here can just look at a gun and ignite the powder inside. It's also pretty easy for them to gnarl any mechanical or electronic systems." Paxton continued. "And watch this." He took a standard issue army .45 pistol from his hip, opened a cargo pod, and used a pair of vice grip pliers to pry out the lead slug from the brass case. "Don't try this trick with rim fire ammo," he commented to nobody in particular.He pulled out the slug, giving it an extra twist as it popped out. He lifted the slug up close to Dougherty's face. There wasn't any powder. Instead there was a tiny, perfectly formed red colored human -- with a tiny forked tail and wings. The diminutive creature hung frantically to the tail end of the slug. "You can go now," suggested Paxton. With a screech of glee, the tiny monster vanished in a trail of smoke. Novotny cursed, "What was that horrible thing?" Paxton loved to lecture. "They're some kind of Ifrit or Ghul or something. Very reliable and safe to use. When you fire the gun, they carry the bullet wherever you point the barrel."He paused. "Very quickly. They're in a hurry to go home."
Bending - Benders can alter reality itself. A bender can duplicate many Lexigurgy spells, but do so using their pure force of will. Human benders are relatively rare and tend to be shamans or acolytes associated with Ghods. Many magical creatures (including dragons) use bending. Most of Red's great thinkers believe that the Strange World tunnels were created by powerful benders. It is generally assumed that the Metaphor Ghods are masters at bending.
Example: Werner burst through the door to the inner temple and leveled his crossbow at the Acolyte. "Your foul perversion of the Avatar of Freedom has come to an end." The Acolyte raised both hands in surrender. "Tell me what you've done with Burnie and you may live out the day." The Acolyte of Freedom lowered his hands and contemptuously turned his back on the invader. Werner pulled the trigger on his crossbow but something was wrong -- he was now holding a feather duster.
Accessing - The Accessing facet taps eldritch sources of knowledge. This knowledge can come from distant places, from the dead, or from supernatural libraries (such as the infamous Akashic Record). Adepts include Farseers, Sages, Spiritualists, and Necromancers. There are numerous limitations. Farseers occasionally observe events in distant parallel universes that have no genuine relevance to the matter at hand. Necromancers can speak to the dead (even the log dead) but the information they obtain is by no means guaranteed to be correct. It is generally assumed that the Metaphor Ghods are masters at accessing.
Example: Leo paid good money to get the Necromancer to contact his father. He really just wanted one question answered -- "Where did you hide the strong box with last year's profits." After five minutes of mumbo jumbo, the Necromancer passed along the answer. "The strong box is empty. I spent the profits myself. There will be no windfall for you, o greedy son."The message was a lie and the truth. Just last week, a different Necromancer had asked the same question, and the father had gladly told his daughter where to find the cash. He'd also told her, "Dad always did like you best, o daughter."
Prophecy - Prophets can unravel the future histories and see what might happen. Most prophecy reveals "what will happen if nothing changes."A particular branch of prophecy identifies particularly important individuals. Some prophecy may be in the form of complex "if/then" statements. (Example: If the North River freezes by the end of October, then the war-sleds of the Noguns will reach the city walls by the next full moon). It is generally assumed that the Metaphor Ghods are masters at prophecy.
Example: "And finally comes the hardest part of this lecture." The Founder mentally chastised himself. This orientation wasn't really a lecture, and the candidates always hated being lectured to. "The hardest point of this orientation is that every one of you, without exception, was going to die."At least he t attention now. "The Zone Pioneers have a Unique, or a Mage, or whatever terminology you're comfortable with. Personally I call it the Prognosticator. The Prognosticator identified candidates that met our criteria and then met one more criteria. If we didn't intervene, each candidate would die within a few days. Certainly no more than a week. So by coming here, you have performed your first rescue. You have each rescued yourself!" "Before we break up, the guides are going to talk to each of you. They'll tell you the circumstances of your narrowly avoided death. I trust this will all give you something to think about. Please try to get a good night's sleep and we'll meet back here tomorrow after breakfast." The guides began calling out names. Talks-to-Self was a firm believer in the (generally ineffective) prophecy practiced by his tribe's shaman. He was not uncomfortable with idea of narrowly avoiding one's fate. He was much more uncomfortable with learning the specifics. "Not rats," he thought. "Anything but rats." A Guide named Rosin the Bow clasped Talks by one arm and whispered, "Giant rats would have killed you." Talks thought, "I knew it was going to be that."
The Twelfth Facet - There is nothing definitive known about the twelfth facet. Some believe it deals with the powers used to create the Strange Worlds. The truth won't be revealed here.