Development Diary 5: the magic in Zaharia

Disciple of Unity

The magic system we want to implement in Zaharia will distinguish from the ones usually found in classic fantasy, as it will offer a different version of the magician, that will not be a portable siege weapon, but will play a his own role in the game consistent with his background.

Disciple of Unity

The magic in Zaharia is an art which everyone can access, but few are sufficiently equipped to achieve acceptable results. Throughout history, in  Zaharia world, scholars have sought to understand and explain the nature of magic, every culture and religion did it in a different way but we can identify some common points. First of all, the magic is the result of a mind capable of thinking outside the box creating its own schemes and going beyond immediate reality that appears on the surface. There are several ways to achieve this result, not surprisingly, there are both magicians who get their powers through the study of philosophy and magicians who choose the path of religious studies. This means that the magic does not arise from purely practical needs, such as combat, but its roots are tied to the religious and philosophical thought; so this should be reflected into the game, a magician must have powers consistent with his course of study, his inner growth. How does this all transfer to the gameplay? The magicians in Zaharia do not go around throwing fireballs, they will not be able to destroy strongholds by him/herself, to summon mysterious creatures or stop time;  the spells available to wizards not only  vary depending on the type of magician, but they will have a more consistent effect with the setting and the nature of the magician.

In Zaharia you will find four different main approaches to magic: we will find the philosophical-scientific one, born in recent years due to the emergence of scientific thought, the most mystical and shamanic approach of the Wandering Warlocks, the more holistic and instinctive approach of  the Disciples of Unity and finally a more traditional one, linked to the Azhanit religion. The first three approaches will also be available to the player, while the fourth one, which is tied to the zaharian clergy, will be a prerogative only for NPCs. Each of these approaches will stand out from the others in terms of gameplay, offering different attitudes and powers, with the result to create three different gaming experiences.

As to the scientific approach, we must first consider what the recent history of Zaharia is, which saw the birth of the Zaharian Empire and the capital city transfer to Ashantir, in an area far from the influence of the conservative Azhanit clergy. Thanks to the creation of a more modern and innovative cultural environment, in Zaharia was born scientific thought, capable of renewing the classical methods in the study of nature. The study of physics, philosophy and magic ceases to be related to theology and science but is stated as a doctrine in its own right, with its own rules and its own methods. Scientific thinking also applies to magic, which is no longer treated as an esoteric discipline or a mystery, but as an object of study of the rational thought. This means that magicians do not train as fighters, but they are first and foremost scientists, regardless of whether their magical powers can have practical applications of various kinds. Mages who study magic through the scientific approach have at their disposal a wide choice of spells with the most various effects.

The Wandering Warlocks are instead a sect of magicians nomads, the legacy of a nomadic civilization that in ancient times moved to the territories of Zaharia and that over time has become sedentary and has been able to integrate seamlessly with the natives. The Wandering Warlocks are the only ones who still retain the old traditions. Although they converted centuries ago to Azhanism, their approach to this religion was very special, in fact, they integrated their previous religious beliefs with many theological precepts of the azhanit cult. The Wandering Warlocks magic comes from a mixture of metaphysical religious beliefs, meditative practices related to the use of psychoactive substances of various kinds and arcane traditions that have been preserved, not without some evolution, for centuries. The magic and rituals of the Wandering Warlocks was born for practical purposes, is much more immediate and direct than modern scientific magic, but at the same time is strongly linked to the tradition, which makes it less versatile. History teaches us, however, that progress is not linear and the Wandering Warlocks  know a particular branch of magic that scientists still fail to replicate that is the Curse. The curses generate long-term adverse effects on a person and it is this persistence that is difficult to reproduce for scientists, who can create magic persistent over time almost exclusively through the use of magic items.

The Disciples of Unity are a secret sect, born after the founding of the Zaharian Empire, which offers a vision of magic, on a philosophical level, distinguishing from all the others. In the history of thought in fact there has always been a dualism collocating mind and body on different levels, a dualism fueled not only by the existence of magic, but also by azhanit theology which describes the human as a union of body and soul. For the azanit Disciples, however, after the act of creation, soul and body mix evenly in order to create the living subject, and the understanding and use of magic must necessarily pass through a better understanding of human nature, a nature that does not intend the body as a mere vehicle of the soul, but as an integral part of man himself. The Disciples of Unity own powers different from those of other mages, because their magical tradition is relatively young and needs time to develop properly.

As to the game we will have three different types of magician:  the scientists-magicians will have at their disposal a large number of different spells having disparate but often indirect effects; the Wandering Warlocks will have at their disposal only four schools of magic, whose effectiveness may be increased by the proper use of various drugs, the Disciples of Unity will be able to magically strengthen their body and have access to unique and special powers. This ability applies not only to combats, on the contrary the wizards may be useful in every situation, the various spells in fact will often have useful effects in contexts of all kinds. Our aim is to offer the player a chance to take advantage of their characters not only to launch a couple of spells in the fighting, but also to use them in any situation where it would be consistent for a mage to use his powers . For example, if a door is closed, and the player does not have anyone in the group to pick it, there is no need to give up, a wizard can in fact burn down the door or reduce its integrity at molecular level. Similarly you can distract a guard, make the witness of a crime you have just done to forget, convince an individual to do something, pick up objects from a distance, identify the forms of life in the area and so on.