The Theory of Magic

There are many models of magic and magical activity, both in anthropological study and in fantasy fiction and legend. BtM models four broad based theories through the implementation of the Magical Paradigms: Essence, Manipulation, Incantation and Miracle. Any of these paradigms may be brought to bear in the execution of a specific Spell Skill, some may even be combined.

Essence Paradigm

The emotional paradigm. The untrained magically active individual simply “does” magic. It is alternatively a gift or a curse. The form and requirements of his manipulation of etheric power are beyond the individual's understanding, as such he cannot improve his Method. The spells he knows are simply “talents” he picked up somewhere. He wills a thing to happen and it does (or does not) without physical or mental contortions of any kind. He can improve his casting of these spells through practice and repetition. There are no advantages to any type of magic being performed in this fashion. Miracles and the creation of Magical artifacts are, however, impossible without advanced training in the form of Method Skills.

Manipulation Paradigm

The physical paradigm. The creation of magical effect through the mechanistic ascription to procedure and form. The spells of the Cabal, Square and Thaumaturgy Methods require the performance of physical acts that manipulate the etheric by association. The ability to move freely while performing such magics prohibits practitioners of these methods from wearing armor during the performance of their spells. Due to the physical nature of this paradigm it lends itself quite well to the construction and implementation of stored magic in the form of artifacts. Each spell skill is performed with a different sequence or configuration of physical activity which must be enacted within very stringent parameters or the spell will fail. Improvement of these activities allows the magician to improve casting success and is accomplished through the improvement of the Method Skill.

Incantation Paradigm

The aural paradigm.  The creation of magical effects through expression of sound patterns. The spells of Enchantment and Word require the creation and transmission of sound waves that channel etheric energies. The creation of appropriate sounds must be possible for the practitioner to successfully cast spells utilizing these methods. Each spell skill is performed within stringent requirements of tone, pitch, timbre and rhythm or the spell will fail. Improvement of the ability to accurately create the requisite sounds allows the magician to improve casting success and is accomplished through the improvement of the Method Skill.

Miracle Paradigm

The spiritual paradigm. The creation of magical effects through solicitation of supernatural forces. Simple spells of Prayer and Ritual Methods require nothing more than a few mumbled words or a simple gesture. Grand spells may require enormous (and expensive) ceremonies with specific music, artifacts, costumes and even an audience of hundreds of additional participants. Improvement of the understanding of the identity and will of the supernatural being allows the mendicant to improve casting success and is accomplished through the improvement of the Method Skill.

Spell Skills

The paradigms define the methodology behind various forms of etheric activity. These Methods act upon specific spell skills to enable the transformation of etheric will into physical or emotional affect in the world. Each spell skill operates within narrow constraints of power and performance such that some Methods are more appropriate than others for a given spell skill. Various spell skills are unavailable to certain methods due to incompatibilities between the power or performance requirements and Method. Understanding the limitations and advantages of your character's Method will be of considerable advantage in choosing useful spell skills.


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updated on:   11 Feb 1999