In this scenario, we have a world with four civilizations occupying four Australia sized continents. Each with a population of about 50,000,000, have comparable natural resources and are (with one exception) at a level of development comparable to Europe around 1550. This world is in a universe were the laws of nature are different and magic exists. Each of these civilizations makes use of magic in a different way.
General Qualities of Magic
Certain People are born with innate magical abilities. Usually about one in a hundred, though if this can be higher or lower if born in areas of high or low background magic. Of the existing mages, one in ten will have about two to three times the power of the rest of his/her peers. Magic users require mana to cast spells, the bigger and more powerful the spell the more mana. Mana supplies can be exhausted, which often physically exhausts the mage. People can generate mana internally as well as draw mana from the standing background magic in the immediate environment. It is possible to give an adult some magical power in complex rituals, but these require a lot of skill to do, use large quantities of magic and if they are not done just right usually end up blowing up the recipient. It is also possible to enhance the abilities of wizards in similar rituals, but these carry similar risks.
While they are as a rule not required, a variety of tools exist that can improve a mage’s performance. These include prepared sights with sigils and so forth, staffs and wands, blessed craftsman’s tools, specially crafted buildings and so forth.
High Magic: ‘High Magic’ is what you are most likely to think of when you think of magic. Potions, spellbooks and wizards casting spells to (among other things) shoot lighting, levitating stuff, read minds and turning people into pigs.
High Magic is mostly about casting a spell for a direct and immediate result. For example, casting a spell on a rock to make it hover or gathering clouds up for a rainstorm. They can also be used to create fire, bolts of electricity, turn invisible, form a temporary shield to protect themselves and so forth. These can mostly be done on the fly. It is also possible to turn an object into another object such as turning a lump of rock into a gold nugget. However, this is usually at best marginal use since it will usually turn back into its former self in a few minutes to a few days unless the spell is recast. Lesser wizards can do these things on a smaller scale while greater wizards can do things on a larger scale.
It is also possible for a wizard to cast on people spells to enhance them, this includes healing spells as well as spells that improve strength, resilience, stamina and so forth over short periods of time as well as defensive shields which last for about an hour or so. They can also can apply hexes, which are more negative versions of these which make people weaker, tire more quickly or make it like they just had eight pints. They also can dispel said buffs and hexes. This magic can be applied to plants to improve crop yields. It is possible for a mage to use High Magic to triple the lifespan of someone (both magic user and regular person alike) using spells, but these spells are fairly complex, take a fair bit of magic and there are finite limits to them.
Spells can be prepared ahead of time in potions, either to be drunk by people to carry a more complex spell, provide extra mana or to allow a non-mage to use spells (for example drinking a Potion of strength or pouring a portion of levitation on a rock to move it out of the way). In addition, a few objects exit that are used by mages, these include flying ships kept aloft by levitation spells and moved by wind spells cast by mage crews as well as spell cannons, artifacts that can be charged with a massive powerful lightning or solar spell and be discharged.
The big weakness of High Magic is that its spells are, for the most part, transient. A levitation spell will wear off. A transmuted object will revert. A healing spell will only do its job of repairing someone’s body for so long. A mage is required to keep up a high magic spell at all times. Occasionally High Magic spells backfire and fail to produce the desired result or have some negative fallout.
The civilization that has use of High Magic has the assistance of Great Dragons. Fifty meter long flying creatures that have very durable hides and can breathe fire. They can also have the assistance of Centaurs.
Runic Magic: Runic magic is based around runes. Runic magic is not about casting spells on the spot, rather it is careful preparations of spells for long term use. A rune-mage is more than just a magic user, but an artisan as well.
Runic magic is tied directly into an object. Runes are inscribed (this includes other forms of calligraphy besides simple runic script, though this is common as well) onto an object and that gives it certain qualities. More basic runes do fairly basic things such as improve the overall resilience of an object or making it effectively lighter. Among the products of Runic magic are breastplates and shields which can take a rifle shot and a sword which can cut through regular plate like it was cloth or (among the cheapest runic artifacts) arrows that burst into flame on impact. More complex runes can do more complex things, such as crossbow shaped devices that can launch bolts of magical energy or Turnstones (two interlocking runic discs that rotate at about 10 to 30 rotations per minute), glasses that can see through invisibility spells and Link-Mirrors (a pair of mirrors set in runic frames that allow people to see either their own reflection, or what is reflected in the other mirror). However, things such as levitation, teleportation, skrying and telepathy cannot be achieved with runic magic. They can also be used to make wards that fend off curses and supernatural attack, of varying degrees of strength.
Among the most complex items are golems. Golems are statues, either ceramic or metallic, that are animated. They possess considerable strength. The more simple golems can do fairly simple pre-programmed tasks and require constant oversight and instruction. The more complex golems, which usually take a couple of years to make can follow more complex instructions. Golems can be equipped with runic items, but despite the best effort of many Runesmiths, making a golem capable of making even the most simple runes has been well beyond their capacities (IE no golem von Neumann army).
Runes are quite stable and all but the cheapest runic items retain their spells after considerable use. There is also the fairly open nature of runic magic in that it’s benefits as while mages are required to make runic creations, anyone can use them. Nevertheless runic artifacts have their limitations limitations. Among the most notable of these is that they gather magical energy from the surrounding areas. The amount of energy they can hold is finite. A runic sword can only cut so much before it loses its charge and becomes just a sword. Golems will become inert after a certain time. Once it is gone, it will have to recover its charge, which takes some time depending on local conditions and the size of the object. Recharge items ranges from a minute or so to a week. Feeding magic into a runic item is possible for a mage. It is also possible to transfer magic from one runic item to another. It is possible for a mage to drain Mana from most runic items or (in the case of more powerful mages) dispel runes entirely, though it is possible to put in defensive runes that make this more difficult.
Finally Runic magic deals with inert materials. You can not apply runic magic to any living thing. Runic magic is generally not of all that much use in terms of its application in medicine. If your civilization embraces runic magic, this will be an issue. However, a few minor healers will come up. While they cannot lengthen life, they are still somewhat useful for dealing with wounds.
About 15% of the population of a civilization using runic magic are Dwarves. Dwarves naturally live about 300 to 400 years and are expert artisans. They are just as likely to be magic users as humans, but living long lifetimes give them more opportunity to master their craft.
Necromancy: Necromancy is based around the manipulation of life forces and animating the dead. It is similar to high magic in several ways in a few respects (though many high magic using wizards would take offense to this comparison). Necromancers, whatever others may say, are not necessarily evil, but there magic does have consequences.
Necromancers can do a variety of spells similar to those of High Magic wizards, though there are differences. Most of their spells tend to emit a green light when working and a fair number of them leave supernatural residue. The results of this include making fires nearby emit green light, generating a faint green light, nausea, the rapid decomposition of foodstuff, the ground shifting about, generation of fear in animals and people, plant life dying and in more severe cases, mutation. The after effects of necromantic magic can last from a few hours to a few centuries, depending on how bad they are. These can be dispelled, though doing so takes mana and time. Most necromantic spells use more mana to cast and produce more magical waste during the day. There is also something of a greater risk, many necromantic spells have a tendency of blowing up in there user’s faces if they are not careful. Necromancers are unable to transmute substances and cannot control weather.
The biggest thing that Necromancers can do lies in the use of the Undead. Most Necromancers can animate skeletons and zombies to do their bidding. There are varying grades of undead that can be used. The simplest have basic animal intelligence and can pick things up, put them down and attack mindlessly. These only stay animate for a few days or hours, requiring the spell to be recast. More skilled mages with more time can revive undead which, while servile, are more intelligent and can use tools and can stay animate for a few weeks to a few months before needing the spell recast. Doing so takes less effort to do than making golems, even if undead are frailer, weaker and require more upkeep. These have a large number of military and civilian uses.
Necromancers can provide a few buffs to individuals as well undead, but these are generally weaker than high magic buffs. Necromancers can cast curses, which take more energy to cast but are more permanent than hexes. These can do things such as rebuild someone gradually into a lizard man, make them prone to bursts of randomized violent rage, constantly have visions of being eaten by dozens of tiny orca whales or in a few cases, render them servile to the necromancer who cast said curse. Curses can be dispelled, but this is more difficult.
Necromancers can make use of spells to lengthen their lives with similar limitations to those used by High Magic wizards. In addition to this is a way of achieving a form of immortality. This involves a ritual in which a Nercomancer can be made into a Lich, powerful fully independent form of undead with full magical abilities at its disposal. Liches subsist entirely off of mana. Creating a Lich is a very complex ritual.
In addition to more normal means of acquiring energy, necromancers can also engage in sucking up energy from living things. This causes them to age, wither and die. Doing so, however, is addictive and eventually compromises a wizard’s ability to generate mana or absorb ambient background magic. A Necromancer with poor self-control can become quite powerful, but will ultimately become completely dependent on absorbing life-force. Animals yield more than plants and sapient creatures yield more than non-sapient creatures. A Necromancer can draw his/her own life force, but for obvious reasons this is a quite rare occurrence.
The Necromantic civilization has, in addition to its armies of Zombies and Skeletons and suchlike the service of Vampires. Vampires are sapient undead created by some now long dead great necromancer. They look like regular humans but have superhuman strength (about 5 times that of humans) and speed. They can transform into bats at will. Vampires need to drink about 5 liters of blood a month, any placental mammal’s blood will sustain them human blood is about as addictive to them as tobacco is to regular people. Vampires are sociopathic. Vampires cannot make use of magic beyond their established abilities. Exposure to sunlight kills them, with two minute’s exposure usually being enough to do the trick. They also have black drakes on their side, smaller than great dragons (25 meters long) and are somewhat less durable, but quicker (200km/h compared to 100km/h), require less food and breed three times as fast.
Industrial Technology: Your civilization does not have much in the way of magic. Levels of background magic here are low. Only one in 300 people are born mages and of them only one in thirty is particularly powerful. Your civilization does not have the institutions that the other three have for making use of magic. As such your people have found other, more mundane solutions to problems. Since they had limited command over the might of magic, they instead turned to the power of technology.
On the whole this civilization is mostly comparable to that of 1880s Europe. Steam is the primary motive power source though a few people are experimenting with internal combustion. There are factories and agriculture is becoming mechanized. Its soldiers are armed with breach loading rifle, gatling gun and cannon. Its fleet is composed of Ironclad warships with turrets. Some areas have been accelerated, for example these people have managed to build tracked armored fighting vehicles called Land Ironclads and have powered rigid airships.
Magic is mainly used medically, dispelling curses and hexes and for industrial purposes. For example, treating cotton and silk to improve their tensile strength (for bullet proof vests) or hardening bits for machine tools. Among the more notable applications of magic is a combination of healing magics and applied anatomy. This is the creation of constructs. Basically Frankenstein monsters cobbled together from animal parts and (a fact which distinguishes them from undead) brought to life using healing spells and powerful electric shocks. These are not as strong or resilient as golems nor as programmable as them or undead, but still have their uses.
It should be noted that all the supernatural civilizations have not refined their magic to the maximum extent by any means. There is still plenty of room for improvement.
If Q gave you the ability to lead one of these civilizations, which one would you choose?
HAIL ZOR! WE'LL BLOW UP THE OCEAN!
Heros of Cybertron-HAB-Keeper of the Vicious pit of Allosauruses-King Leighton-I, United Kingdom of Zoria: SD.net World/Tsar Mikhail-I of the Red Tsardom: SD.net KingdomsWHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE ON EARTH, ALL EARTH BREAKS LOOSE ON HELLhttp://zortropolis.myminicity.com/http://zortropolis.myminicity.com/indhttp://zortropolis.myminicity.com/traTerran SphereThe Art of Zor