Roleplayer #27, February 1992

Illusion and Creation 575: Epistemological Calculus

So You Want To Be A Wizard?

by Sean Barrett

The final was a red-hot cast-iron heller. Gyrok kept his head bowed over his test-book, but flicked his eyes from side to side. To his left, Imafe was gnawing on a knuckle of one hand while apparently trying to stretch her earlobe to reach her shoulder with the other. Ahead of her, Tlispen was sharpening his nib with intense concentration. To his right, Silent Xebys was fluffing his hair as if to allow better cooling airflow.

"Gyrok." The flat voice crackled in his ear.

His eyes snapped back to his own desk, his face heating. The proctor knew he wasn't cheating, or worse than a simple Voice would have hit him, but he was required to keep his eyes on his own work. He would lose points for that slip, he knew. He could hear Iepoiram's phlegmatic gurgle; "Discipline. Discipline. Concentration. Only an adamant will can control the ravening mana. Your training is filled with requirements that seem pointless, but which you will obey. If you cannot discipline yourself to fold your cloak properly, you will never bend mana to your will."

All right. One more question . . .

18. Compare and contrast the illusory and creative spells of this College to the visual spells of the College of Light and Darkness.

O Bright Lady. He had dozed through Differential Phenomenology. Well, he sure wasn't going to awe them with oratory – time to obfuscate with O.S!

The College of Light and Darkness specializes in spells that create or destroy light.

Oh, brilliant start, Gyrok. With revelations like that, you'll be acclaimed Manarch in no time!

Those spells actually change the physical world. A mindless plant will react to a Continual Light spell, and the rumored Cutting Light spell (if it exists, of course) does actual damage to flesh.

The illusory spells, however, have no existence outside the mind of the preceptor. An illusion of a dragon may frighten someone into unconsciousness, especially if the swipe of its claws is adroitly matched with illusory wounds, but the victim will find himself undamaged upon regaining consciousness. Similarly, an illusory fire can create the impression of warmth in one standing near, but he may still be falling victim to frostbite as he enjoys that "warmth." The senses are deceived, but no force is exerted. That illusory dragon may feel scaly, but it can have no actual effect on flesh. If it slams into a person, he may jump from surprise, but he will not be knocked back.

Illusions create nothing but thought-forms in sentience. Like light, the thought-forms need not be aimed – the mana that creates them radiates in all directions at the same speed as light – but unlike light, mana can only be altered by mana-fields. (A no-mana zone between the scene and the observer, for example, would prevent an illusion from being perceived, just as magical Darkness – a no-light zone – prevents sight through it.) Thus, an observer watching a scene in the present in a mirror or through a scrying device will still see an illusion (even if the caster is unaware of the scrutiny), as the radiating mana creates thought-forms in his mind at the same instant as the light from the scene creates images in his eyes. A non-sentient recording device, however, will not record the illusion, nor will spells that perceive times other than the present perpetuate illusions. An illusion cannot be stored in a non-conscious medium, since it only "exists" in a mind. Specifically of interest from a phenomenological viewpoint,

– a little jargon never hurts in essay questions – but was that correct usage? – oh, well –

illusions cannot create information. They can destroy it – the illusion of a wall hides the space behind it – but an illusory torch does not illuminate. Visual elements apparently lighted by the torch may be included to complete the mise en scene,

– might as well use that drama class for something, and foreign languages are always impressive –

but the caster must create those elements. The torch will not light the caster's way unless he already knows it (or adds a Light spell to the illusion).

Creation spells, on the third tentacle

– no, strike that, Old Lady Iepoiram has no sense of humor –

however, actually bring into existence objects and animate beings, which appears to be in distinction to the non-existency of illusions; more in keeping with the creations of the Light or the Sound Colleges.

He paused for breath. Whew. Okay, Gy, old son, why are Creations derived from Illusions?

He smiled to himself recalling the slow voice of Rabar, the graduate instructor who was a permanent fixture in the College. "Totally obvious to the most utterly casual observer, man. The whole world is just an illusion, so, y'know, all magic is, too." What can you expect from a city Elf? But somehow Gyrok sensed that that answer wouldn't be well received.

Ask the question more precisely. Why do the creation spells use so many of the same basic thaumas as illusions? Well, what would happen if someone could dispel just the illusionary thaumas from a Created Servant? He doodled on his scratch pad for a moment, factoring the symbolic representation of the Create Servant spell into its component thaumas. Well, the Earth would still be there, and the thing would still look the same – its form was given by the Earth; none of the illusion appearance thaumas were used – but the animatory . . . that was it! A quick check . . . yes!

This seeming contradiction is caused only by terminology. Creations are not derived from Illusions; rather, they are two separate types of spells that use a common body of thaumas. This commonalty is best illustrated by the structural similarity between the Independence spell and the Creation spells. Every one of the "illusionary" thaumas used in the Creation spells is also found in the Independence spell. Creations aren't illusory in any sense; they are just animated in the same way.

Indeed, this College of Magic might be better named "Animation," for the factor that unites its spells, but for the Necromancers' preemption of that name for their spell. Our discipline is certainly a purer use of that word, for we do not summon and confine a pre-existing spirit; we create the controlling program from the raw mana.

That did it . . . not too bad, actually! Gyrok signed his name with a flourish. He put his quill and ink away manually as he simultaneously Apported his test book to the proctor. Might as well start warming up.

Now for the practical.

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