At the moment I’m working hard on editing, refining and otherwise polishing the magic system in Wyldlands, so I figured this would be a good time to talk a little about magic, its mechanics and how it ties into faith and religion in the game.
From the outset, we built Wyldlands around the idea that all existence and reality is the product of one deity, however in-keeping with older, pre-Christian beliefs, this all-encompassing deity is traditionally perceived as female – in Wyldlands, we simply refer to her as the Goddess. She is responsibility for the birth of the universe, the creation of everything and, to paraphrase the fantastic Neil Gaiman, she’ll put the chairs on tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind her when she leaves. The Goddess is the raw expression of the natural cycle of creation, change and destruction – as such, she makes a pretty fun tool for some cool spells and serves as the perfect, seamless metaphor for us to create this fantastical world of faeries and magic.
In Wyldlands lore, the Goddess bore her Children unto the universe. These gods and goddesses are the main sources of divine worship for the people of the land, each one linked to one of the racial groups. For example, the mannish races (humans of various cultures) typically worship the god Lugh. We’ve taken some creative liberties here with various aspects of Irish, Welsh and Scottish mythology; for example traditionally, Lugh is seen as a mortal king. That probably merits a later blog post of its own.
How does this all tie into magic? In Wyldlands, all magic stems from the divine. Whether your character is healing a soldier’s wounds, communing with the otherworld, crafting an item of power or throwing bolts of fire at her enemies. Magic is a raw expression of will and faith; an expression of intent and belief that causes change in the natural world around the spell caster. Those skilled in the magical arts have learnt to harness the power of the Goddess and channel it, through worship and belief in her and her Children.
In addition to this practised magic, there is a wilder and more chaotic type of magic in the game. Wyld magic, sometimes called Sour magic (typically by those that fear or don’t understand it, which is…well…most people) shirks the…well, I was going to type “tamer” but that’s not quite right…but let’s go with it – the tamer magic that most casters channel through the various gods and goes straight to its source. Wyld magic is the raw power of the Goddess herself. It is the pure expression of that circle of creation, change and destruction. It pulls no punches – and it comes with a cost.
Wyld magic users (known as Sour Priests in the game) are shunned as outcasts. Whilst not evil (there is no “evil” in Wyldlands, just as there is no “good”) it is powerful and often uncontrollable enough that its practitioners are not welcome around most common people. At best they are treated as exiles – if they’re lucky. At worst, they are hunted and killed wherever they are found. Wyld magic works on the principle that there can be no change in the natural balance of all things without there also being consequences. Healing a wounded limb is all well and good, but to bring life where there is death, one must bring death to somewhere there is life. Balance. Cause. Effect.
Hopefully this will give you an insight into how magic is inextricably tied to everything in the game. Every stone, every river, every plant and animal and every gust of wind. It is a natural, all-encompassing power that has no concept of right or wrong. As with any tool, it is the wielder that decides whether to use it for good or ill.