This is a recounting of the Three Laws of Magic. I developed them based on patterns and events that occur within the magic system as published by Wizards. The hardest part was determining the source of magic, but once Incarnum appeared it fell right into place quite happily.
The Three Laws of Magic
SpoilerMagic is an inherently powerful force, which is largely unknown and yet extremely commonly used among the talented and wealthy.
Archmage Laurel DeCamphor of Olympia first concocted the Three Laws of Magic and whilst his initial theories and conclusions were sketchy and opaque at first, they were eventually refined and wrought to produce the modern equivalents.
The Three Laws of Magic are as follows:
- Magic is unaffected by the Laws of Physics, but may affect them
- Magic only extends as far as the civilisation’s furthest point
- Magic is fundamentally an unstable substance
All magical effects, in some way or another, and sometimes in lengthy cycles, apply these laws, which determine the function of the effect on the material world (Material Plane or otherwise).
Magic needs a source at all times to function for even an instant, however the source of magic has been a subject of much controversy. Early theories pointed to the Gods as the source of magic (Early worship of Boccob and similar deities can be seen from this), later versions pointed to a single, unknown, deity (Faerun's Mystra). Theories also speculated the existence of a ‘magic plane’ from which the effects were drawn directly, a plane that encompassed the entire planar cosmology in a form of weave, as in a wicker basket (The Weave and Shadow Weaves). The most agreed upon and recognised theory of the modern day points to the living soul of a creature as the source, after the discovery of Incarnum magics divulged by the Dead-Nick Squad Black Pearl expeditionary force upon their return from Mizu Omi (Incarnum itself).
Souls are naturally malleable, and are capable of performing and empowering a myriad of effects in their usage, either as source, stopgap, or fuel. As Incarnum is a magical effect based on the user’s soul or soul energy, and as it is notably one of the most ancient of magic sciences yet discovered, the soul is logically the most likely source of magic itself, though not all theorists were swayed by this new science.
It has been documented that, in order for magic to function in an area, there must be a group of creatures or objects possessing souls of at least 200 within 500 miles of the target point. This is the origin of the Second Law of Magic, though exceptions have been noted with particularly powerful magical individuals or objects where fewer and farther numbers have allowed magic’s existence (10 20th level casters, for instance, could amount to 200 HD of souls, as demonstrated by some rulings on Incarnum effects). This collective soul energy that allows magic is a little known phenomenon, and is often believed to mean that larger numbers of united people are inevitably more powerful, the number of souls joining together to produce a more powerful whole, which is embodied in magic.
The partial exception to this rule is divine magic, which is limited only by how far the deity worshipped can perceive the spellcaster. Were such a spellcaster to be in a region outside of their deity's capacity to view and deplete their granted investment of innate magic (An acquisition only possible by deities, who control incarnum in its essence), they would find themselves lacking in magical ability completely. As stated, this particular variation to the requirements for magic is only seen in divine casters, arcane casters need worry only about the nearby population.
Teleportation and Divination - This requirement is regularly not the case for some magic effects, such as the teleportation subschool, which transport a creature to a defined location instantaneously, regardless of the existence of magic at that location (Though antimagic has been found to prevent this access by negating the little amount of magic required). Divination school effects produce their effects in a similar manner, and are also negated by antimagic, suggesting a relation in their function. The small amount of magic needed is sent instantaneously to a region it cannot survive and is then immediately returned to report back to the spellcaster. Left in a single no-magic area, the spell gradually falters until the energy it needs to be self-supporting dissipates.
Undead and Constructs - Undead naturally do not possess souls (Though some are composed of little else, such as Ghosts), and so have great difficulty in utilising magic in otherwise-dead areas, though it is possible for a sentient undead creature to acquire magical talent, and this has led to the naïve belief that sentience is the key to the acquisition of a soul, though Druids regularly refute this claim with evidence that animals, clearly non-sentient creatures, can be revived through resurrection magics. Undead and Golems, to name a single grouping of Constructs, are all charged by magical energy. When this occurs, the energy is initially invested by the spellcaster that creates them, and they are then seen to be self-supporting. Like demiplanes, it seems that the spellcaster maintains a 'thread' or similar link to the creations, which typically necessitates that they remain loyal to the spellcaster, and then the remaining energy that keeps the creatures operational is drawn directly from a massive source of incarnum energy (Similar to the modern way that cellphones get a signal from a tower nearby). Whilst such a phenomenon has never been found, it is therefore probable that Undead and Constructs would cease functioning entirely in a region of no-magic and null-incarnum.
Demiplanes - Demiplanes may be seen to violate these laws, but they do in fact follow them. When a demiplane is first created, it is by a powerful soul through a significant magical effect. Largely, it is this initial ‘boost’ of magical energy that allows the demiplane to then continue growing. However, once it is grown, the demiplane then draws its magical power directly from incarnum, the under current that allows magic itself to exist. This makes them in some ways an exception to the Second Law, however it is incarnum that produces the soul itself, and so the demiplane draws its strength from the pupating souls of billions of creatures, hence applying to the Second Law and existing. It has long been theorised that the personal energy a spellcaster must invest to initially create the demiplane is precisely what ties it to incarnum.
The Search for the SourceSpoilerIt's in human nature, follow the stream to the ocean, the smoke to the fire, or blood to the wound. What is the "source" of magic?
Conventional wisdom shows us that any creature with intelligence has access to magic, or any creature with an overt/covert link to something with access can utilise magic to a degree. Therefore, there must be something about the intelligent mind that allows the use of magic (Wizards study books and prepare spells ahead of time, Sorcerers figure spells as they go, Bards learn the tunes, etc.)
In addition, it appears that the earliest form of magic involved the manipulation of soul energy, Incarnum, which has since fallen into disuse and is largely sealed away in monolithic testaments and tombs across the world (Taken from the backstory of Magic of Incarnum, feel free to modify for your own setting). Incarnum is most commonly known in the magical community as the substance that forms most of ectoplasm, infuses Ghost Touch and Ghost Ward items, and perhaps most importantly composes the "soul".
Given that a certain number of creatures with an intelligence of any kind (Be it animalistic or humanoid) must be concentrated in an area for magic to function, we can therefore conclude that souls are important, or else some state of sentience.
Running on with this concoction, we see that soul energy is what causes magic. We assume that Incarnum is either very rare, or entirely unnatural to our known universe. Therefore, its introduction produces a kind of "reaction" with the fabric of reality, be it on the Material Plane, the Positive Energy Plane, or the Outlands, etc. This reaction produces a kind of quasi-energy, stuck half-way between Incarnum and the materials of our own universe. This new energy is extremely covert, and goes unnoticed throughout much of a person's life.
A sentient mind, or one with a connection straight to the source of sentient minds (Incarnum itself, as the sole component of souls) can, with practice and/or study, manipulate this quasi-energy and produce various effects. The effects are often similar due to transplanar teachings and tutelage, but some show a marked ability to display alternative effects to existing "spells" or improve upon them (Aesthetic license, metamagic feats, etc.).
Since this connection was theorised, Incarnum has become the oft-toted source of all magical ability, though by no means is it considered to be fully understood, and many arcanists still strive to be the ones to find the source in its entirety.
Epic magic: Power of the GodsSpoilerA strange distinction is made between mortal magic and epic magic, a magic so potent it can blacken suns and sunder planets. In order for their to be magic, there must be the equivalent soul energy of 200 people within a 500 mile radius. In order for there to be epic magic, there must be one million sentient creatures in the universe.
Given that the Gods control epic magic to a fine degree, and that it is they that can grant the use of divine magic to their subjects, we can assume that they are responsible for its usage. Logically speaking, there must be some reason, some restriction, to this capacity, or else every God would have his/her own universe to play with.
(Note: What follows is largely something I have yet to base in present D&D canon, so don't be angry if I start going unfounded)
The more worshippers a God acquires, the stronger they become. This has become a well-acknowledged and accepted fact. This is how the leaders of pantheons come to be the most well-renowned members.
Just as there must be the equivalent of 200 mortals to acquire mortal magic, there must be the equivalent of 200 divine ranks for there to be epic magic.
Following surveys of religious followings, it appears that, on a divine scale, each so-called "divine rank" is equivalent to approximately 5000 worshippers. Therefore, whether it is divided between the gods evenly, unevenly, or not at all, there must be approximately one million sentient creatures devoting themselves to some deity or ideal.
This focus of latent psionic energy focuses and re-orders the universe on an almost imperceptible level, turning the "background magical products" into the impetus for epic magic, which manifests itself through the Gods.
Basically, I think of magic as a kind of inverted-flow fountain. You have lots of people inside the main chamber of the fountain, this puts pressure on the chamber itself, so we'll say that's like magic. Then, you get even more people, until eventually it starts shooting out the top of the fountain in little near-continuous spurts, the Gods. Once there's enough of these little spurts, it makes a plateau above the main chamber, that sprinkles the water down around the chamber and back into the bottom of it: Epic magic.
(A bit of a wonky metaphor, but it works, methinks)
Incarnum and the PlanesSpoilerOkay, there exists within my campaign setting (In the very very very far future thereof) an artifact known as the Tresor. It's the tomb of a dead god that literally falls through the planes, from one to another randomly, making it impossible to track. In each campaign setting, there's something similar. This introduces a new issue of "Magic Physics" we should try and cover: The precise nature of planar travel.
The first step in this new field of research, is to discern what it is that composes the "shell" around each plane. Since every plane is different, some lava, some air, some all manner of other compositions, there must be a single unifying element that allows them to interact. For this purpose, I introduce the possibility of the Planar Shell.
Like an egg, a plane has an outer shell. Outside of this shell might be nothing, might be the Far Realm, or might be the other planes themselves, depending on the precise cosmology of the campaign setting. But each plane has this Planar Shell that keeps it coherently together. So, what constitutes this shell?
Think of planar travel as being like tuning a radio. You create a portal (Maybe through Gate) from your present plane to another. So, we take your present plane (Plane A*) and we alter the immediate vicinity to match the planar signature of the other plane (Plane B*). This is similar to string theory, we resonate the material of the Planar Shell at a certain frequency and it produces a section of Plane A in that location.
So the big question is, what is the material of the Planar Shell?
Now, I'm going to introduce a fairly radical concept here that is going to make the previous Laws of Magic a heck of a lot more complex: The Planar Shell is composed of low-frequency Incarnum.
Incarnum resonates at frequencies. If a high-frequency mass of Incarnum is placed within an area of low-frequency Incarnum, we get a reaction. Low-frequency Incarnum is background, it's everywhere but it's too weak to impact upon anything in any flashy way like magic. It takes the heavy or high-frequency Incarnum to really impact upon life at large, that's the kind that reacts with ordinary matter to produce raw magic and it's what most Soulmelds are made of.
So back to our Gate. We create this localised fluctuation in the low-frequency Incarnum and we specifically tune it to the frequency of the plane we want to visit. The edges of the two planes temporarily meet, producing the portal. The interior of the circular portal is a see-through affair, we can see from one plane to the next and vice versa. The outer edges are difficult to discern, they might be hazy or glowing bright light, because magic is inherently chaotic.
Now we go back to the low-frequency Incarnum of the planes. Gate has the second function of being able to summon creatures through the portal produced. Now, since a creature inside the plane is surrounded by the low-frequency Incarnum, it becomes saturated by it, because every last piece of material composing it is from that same home plane. So when it leaves, it sticks out like a sore thumb in that plane (Extraplanar subtype). It doesn't have any really harmful effect for the creature though, because low-frequency Incarnum is still background noise, with too little energy to produce any specific effects.
Actually physically calling the creature through the portal is a function of magic as described above.
(Any thoughts? Criticisms?)
Back to the Tresor and it's brethren. There needs to be a precise resonant pulse going through the object, one that alters the precise wavelength of the low-frequency Incarnum composing it. The pulse needs to stay coherent when released, but chaotic and random immediately prior, to produce the random shifting. This would absolutely need to be a magical effect, because it's too chaotic to be naturally occuring in physics (Magic Physics or otherwise). This naturally indicates a force behind it related to the high-frequency Incarnum of the living soul, which would be a neat little sign that the dead god inside isn't quite dead.
As an example: Eberron.
In Eberron's cosmology, the other planes, like Xoriat and Dal Quor, orbit around the material plane (Eberron itself) inside the Astral plane. They are separate from each other, but occasionaly become coterminous with Eberron, forming a walkway between the two planes that allows creatures and effects to cross over quite happily.
So, the Astral Plane in this instance is a universal medium, like space, and the planes orbit like planet's around the sun that is Eberron. In my setting, this is more like the Far Realm, but that's my setting. The frequency of the Planar Shells in the other planes must be a determinedly fixed value, to prevent them from ever connecting. However, this cannot be true of Eberron.
Eberron has to be able to change it's Planar Shell's Incarnum frequency. This could be the resonant pulse of the Tresor's design, or it could be something merely inherent in Eberron's composition. Whatever the case, Eberron's Planar Shell is unstable. As it alters and varies, it draws in these other planes around it, and as it changes away from their frequencies it shoves them away, producing the atom-esque cosmology.
As the frequency approaches, let's say Xoriat's frequency, Xoriat gets closer and closer until eventually the frequencies match and Xoriat becomes coterminous with Eberron. The two planes touch, allowing travel from one to another freely. Then, Eberron starts shifting again, and Xoriat starts getting repelled. It then becomes waning, whilst it was waxing before becoming coterminous. When Eberron is nowhere near the frequency of Xoriat, Xoriat is remote, you've virtually no way to get there. Basically, the closer the frequency between two Planar Shells, the more they gravitate together.
Now, in Eberron, a remote plane is hard to get to and requires a Spellcraft check to get to. This is a unique function in Eberron and so is a special case for the Laws of Magic. This could mean that a Planar Shell frequency on the opposing end of the scale to the plane you're aiming for actually resists the attempt at joining them, because they almost cancel eachother out in resonation as the portal created pulls them together. This wouldn't be harmful to anything involved, but it would restrict the attempt considerably.
In Eberron, Xoriat is kept remote from the material plane by objects called Dimensional Seals. To do this, they would need to regulate the almost random alterations of Eberron's frequency to avoid becoming close to that of Xoriat. That's the second effect, the first effect of a Dimensional Seal projects a 2 mile radius of dimensional anchor. This would imply that the seals also stabilise the alterations, and eliminate the teleportation magics that allow interplanar travel. All of this is a magic effect naturally.
Now what of the Ethereal Plane and the Plane of Shadow? In virtually all cosmologies to date, they have been overlapping with the Material Plane. Naturally for this to occur, they must have a very close Planar Shell frequency to that of the Material Plane itself.
Incarnum as a substanceSpoilerIncarnum is described in Magic of Incarnum as being a bluish misty substance. It's property of having frequencies indicates that it may be a wave, though more likely it is a gaseous quasi-fluid.
As stated, Incarnum resonates in frequencies. At lower frequencies, Incarnum is a fairly inert substance that permeates virtually all matter in the universe, almost like background radiation. At higher frequencies, it becomes far more energetic, and begins displaying the properties that make it renowned as the substance of the living soul. It empowers cells and materials it inhabits, allowing for sentience and motion, creating life.
When low-frequency Incarnum and high-frequency Incarnum interact, the resulting reaction produces a tertiary product: raw magic. This could relate magic to being a kind of radiant energy or similar to ionising radiation, the two frequencies collide and inherently alter each other. The low-frequency Incarnum gains some more energy whilst the high-frequency Incarnum loses some energy, and the resultant frequency changes produce the erratic raw substance that is magic. The reaction can only occur in this way, low with high frequency, because two different volumes of the same frequency do not react in this way.
Heavy Incarnum is very high-frequency Incarnum, the same kind that composes the souls, but tangible and shapable. It is heavy Incarnum that composes soulmelds. Heavy Incarnum is produced by condensing the high-frequency Incarnum of souls together through meldshaping. This form of Incarnum can serve as a soul only when diluted, because the concentrations involved are overpowering for most living matter, but otherwise functions normally. Heavy Incarnum in it's basic state is fluidic and carries a significant charge, it is often said that when close to a volume of fluidic heavy Incarnum the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, giving it an awe of power. Because of the distinctly infinite quantities that would be involved, it is often believed that the source of Incarnum is almost entirely heavy Incarnum.
Because souls are heavy Incarnum-based, they can therefore yield some influence over the raw magic produced by the reaction. The enhanced neural nature of sentience from the soul exerts a subconscious and conscious effect over it, allowing the various effects of basic magic to occur. With practice or aptitude, a person can produce the typical magical effects characterised in fables and stories and legends. On a more fundamental level, worship directs a small amount of raw magic towards the object of worship, producing divine magic by way of creating divinity.
-Speculation on the Nature of the Plane of IncarnumSpoilerThe most prevalent theory for the "Source" of Incarnum is that it has it's own home plane. This makes sense, given the seemingly infinite nature of it and that Planar Shells are composed of it.
The Plane of Incarnum must be infinite, in order to accomodate an infinite volume of Incarnum. Given this infinite nature, the entire plane being flooded with Incarnum indicates that it is likely in a high-frequency or heavy state, making the plane's environment composed of a highly-detrimental, glowing, bluish sea.
The Planar Shell of the plane must be highly charged, making it possible that it is the only plane in feasible existence that could be held by a shell of high-frequency Incarnum. This would make sense, because a high-frequency Planar Shell would radiate high-frequency Incarnum inward, producing this sea of heavy Incarnum.
Because the entire plane is either high-frequency or heavy Incarnum, magic cannot exist here by normal standards. Adding 200 souls worth of high-frequency soul Incarnum does nothing, and adding low-frequency to the same note is tremendously difficult because there is no measure for the "strength" of low-frequency Incarnum. One could quite possibly hurl an entire continent into the plane without seeing a glimmer of magic.
The entire plane is filled with heavy Incarnum, which as stated carries a significant electrical charge. A plane full of this highly-charged substance would therefore be a storehouse of immense electrical current.
Interactions of low-frequency Incarnum in Planar Shells is the essence of planar travel. Assuming therefore that you have enough magic on one end, you could open a portal to this Plane of Incarnum, and never ever see it close because the shells themselves would likely provide enough Incarnum for magic (The Planar Shell being high-frequency itself). However, this also gives us the problem: Is it possible to tune a low-frequency Incarnum Planar Shell to match a high-frequency Incarnum Planar Shell? The answer is likely no, and so planar travel to the Plane of Incarnum (Besides being suicidally dangerous for biological lifeforms, infinite times more so than the Positive Energy Plane) is likely impossible.
Magic Concentration and it's Effects on Everyday LifeSpoilerWhen magic first becomes available by way of a high enough concentration of Incarnum souls in a small enough area, it behaves very much as a background energy unless someone can manipulate it. If there were no spellcasters you wouldn't even know magic existed, because it has so little an effect on normal reality when raw.
However, an increase in soul concentration in an area beyond the necessary prerequisite concentration for the reaction that creates magic can cause an effect on reality, especially in biological life. This is most prevalent in very large communities, where there is typically a larger occurence of spellcasters and magical events. When magic is produced in such large concentrations, it begins to affect the creatures in the area over time. This typically is a very slow process, akin to an accelerated form of genetic evolution, but can sometimes be forced to take a much faster pace.
When magic concentration reaches very high levels, it can instill in creatures in the area a form of magical aptitude. The material of the creature becomes so saturated with magic that it becomes almost a second nature for them to manipulate it. This is widely thought to be the source of many species of Magical Beast, as well as many Sorcerers and other innately-magical spellcasters.
In extremely high levels of concentration, magic becomes dangerous and can produce hazardous effects on the local populace. It is in this "critical mass" state that magic becomes very volatile, and magic use in the region affected can spark a chain reaction that produces what is commonly known as "arcane pollution" depending on the specific effect that sparked it. This can range from Alchemical Fog, Alchemical Rain, the most well-known Arcane Pollution (Officialy, the overall phenomenon is named Arcane Pollution, this variant is known more properly as "Poly Fog"), Black Mold, or Necrotic Miasma. Because of the high density of magic usage and spellcasters involved, magic districts in large communities are infamous for the creation of arcane pollution.