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How does magic work?

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I remember Path of Radiance talk about fairies which mages could communicate with and have them assist in various stuffs, such as moving through sand. It was somewhat stated jokingly, so I dismissed it, but the FE1 manga mention fairies again, with the mages needing to create contracts to wield magic. Anybody got a concrete theory?

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Mm... This is a subject I've thought about plenty of times, but I've never seen this mentioned before.

Magic in Fire Emblem has, generally, been kind of different from other games. No MP bar, no TP/SP/whatever... We have weapon durability, which applies to spells and staves. These are demonstrated as being conduits for magic. Tomes via incanting, staves typically by some kind of gemstone inset in them.

Since Mana use doesn't seem to be existent, or at least prevalent in the Fire Emblem world, it can be assumed that these weapons are pre-infused with the energy they use during creation. Tomes written in ethereal essence and staves with cores charged with energy, both of which get used up over time, hence their durability. A similar case applies to magical weapons like the Levin Sword as well. Let's just assume that energy is Mana, for simplicity's sake.

This obviously means somebody has to craft these things; somebody has to infuse them with magic somehow, and Mana manipulation seems non-existent, even among elder magi. (For reference, using Quintessence is the manipulation of Life Energy, Aura, the soul.)

Going off of the OP, these fairies are likely the source of spell scribing and core infusion. Magical creatures who can manipulate the world's latent energy, beings who are contracted with in order to perform the act of fusing energy into items, Enchanting. Anyone with proper knowledge and skill can write a spell, or craft a staff, or forge a special weapon, but it won't do anything unless it's enchanted. And the whole fairy deal implies that this step requires a special being who can do it.

My other theory on the OP is that this might be referring to Anima magic specifically, as it's oft called "Nature" magic. To some degree this would make sense, although it seems to defeat the purpose of tomes, unless it's actually more like a binding contract to the mage, something like swearing not to disturb the balance of nature, or something, so as not to invoke the wrath of the nature spirits.

That said, if we narrow this down to Anima magic only, it also can make sense. As in, Fairies, the nature spirits, are the beings who enchant Anima magic, while Light magic is enchanted by a deity or similar "being of good-ly-ness," and Dark Magic might be either enchanted by demonic creatures, or perhaps done through one's own Life Essence? Staves likely fall under the same treatment of Light magic, unless the Cores themselves are charged with their power in their raw state, like a stone that absorbs Mana on its own and reacts with it in a special way.

Edited by Ritisa

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Hmm, you definetly gave food for thought there. Tomes and staves seem to be work in how you envision it, with them being conduits to certain kind of spells. Going with fairies, should it be assumed then that each kind of spell has an unique fairy and therefore an unique Mana form, hence limiting that one tome can only channel one kind of spell? The existence of fairies seems to imply that the mages have to create contracts at some point to allow access to the magic form, but then how does magic weapon work, which can be used by non-mages? Not to mention incantations. Magic weapons seem to be crafted for use by non-mages, hence its lower effect? Pure speculation here.

Dark and light magic seems to be a whole category of their own and seems more bound to religious factors than the anima magic. While anima magic can be seen as manifestations of natural phenomenons, just what is "light" and what is "dark"? What are they manifestations of?

Another thing that boggles me is how the magic tomes are connected to a person's innate magic and resistance ability. While physical weapons requires training that builds muscles and muscle memory, how can one improve their own magic ability? How much is "innate energy" does the tome require for activation?

Truly magic in FE is quite mysterious, one should write a treatise about this.

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There's a relatively in-depth explanation of Archanean magic here, which gets referenced every now and then.

Basically, there are entities (Archanea refers to them as deities) for each element and magic is simply a means of borrowing their power through mental control (hence the need for training and, likely, the Magic stat). I suspect these "deities" are the same things as the "fairies" or "spirits" discussed in the manga and in Tellius.

(Disclaimer: I tried my best to translate it at the time and you can view the original Japanese text via the link towards the top of the page).

Two other things to note:

1. The physical manifestation of spirits appear in the final chapters of Radiant Dawn. Besides the wind, fire and thunder spirits you battle, there is also mention of "dark spirits" for casting dark magic. So maybe light and dark spirits exist too.

2. In Gaiden, characters expend HP to cast magic without tomes or staves; likewise, Micaiah in Radiant Dawn can heal without staves, but expends her own HP. This suggests tomes and staves aren't necessary, but simply relieve the burden on the caster.

Also, a fun aside:

One of my theories is that magic originated from Tellius, since it's the earliest recorded civilisation (and the only one with knowledge of the world creation legend).

This is sort of backed up by the Awakening legacy spells (eg. Excalibur from Archanea and the legendary spells from Jugdral) displaying the Tellius ancient text before you cast them, just like the spells from Tellius.

[spoiler=Minor Fates spoilers]That said, the magic spells in Fates have a different kind of ancient text before casting and it's implied the world of Fates takes place long before Awakening. I guess the easiest explanation is that this could be an alternative branch of magic.

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I'm more inclined to believe that fairies in this regard are contracted not for the act of controlling magic, rather only strictly to the making of it, or contracted in the regard of "We won't strike you down because you agree to abide by the rules of x y and z" or something.

[EDIT]: However, being ninja'd reveals to me that there are, according to canon at least for Akaneia, deities who control these powers, which are, as the person before me said, likely synonymous with "Spirits". This also makes sense on a cultural level as in Shinto practices, spirits are basically revered the same way deities are, if memory serves me correctly.

I personally believe this to be strictly trough for Akaneia only, however, as it concedes to some degree with how Magic is not split into multiple elements there. Magic feels more powerful, but since all magic is "Magic", it's basically treated the same way as using divine power, which makes sense here.

Magic weapons are indeed designed for those who lack the ability to use magic themselves. The Conduits manipulate Mana instead of the caster, allowing its effects to be released. The use of one's own life force to cast magic isn't unheard of though, like in Gaiden or, in Micaiah's case, as a direct transfer of energy. Using a conduit still requires some degree of one's own power, though, which is why people can't just pick up staves and tomes and use them out of nowhere without training. (Reclassing counts as training, you're changing your entire job focus.) But what's used isn't enough to have a noticeable effect on the caster, it's essentially just a trigger.

Anima toys with natural phenomena, altering aspects of the world to perform feats. Acts like conjuring fire via spontaneously combusting the air through sparks of Mana, creating an ultra-low pressure zone to cause the shoved-out air to crash inwards like blades of wind, or concentrate and supercharge static electricity until it discharges like a thunderous bolt of lightning.

Light is likely a form of much more direct Mana manipulation, using raw energy to attack. This sort of attacking lends itself to bursts and lasers, which are prevalent in pretty much every light spell. It also to some extent explains Resire, as it could be assumed that there's some kind of energy conversion going on, but really this one just confuses me, as it really always will be moreso a Dark spell.

Dark is different because it's elderitch magic, and the more I think about it, the more it being tied to Aura, or Quintessence, makes sense. Dark magic is highly abstract, far moreso than Light. Usually in an unsettling way. I believe Dark Magic is magic that directly attacks the soul, which is why magic like Nosferatu, Eclipse, Hel, Luna, and Ruin can exist, and why those effects are always tied to dark magic.

As for Magic and Resistance, Magic is more accurately a representation of one's own "conductance" to Mana. Personally I believe that Tomes have their inherent power (Might) and any extra is done by channeling extra power via external Mana. This also makes sense considering almost all magic criticals involve some kind of rune or extra glow, but they don't particularly do this in the Akaneia games, where the power comes from a god, not from the world around the caster.

Resistance, on the other hand is more like a magical barrier. A passive one. Like "Magical Conductance", it's not a physical trait, but an Ethereal one. It's tied to the soul, not the body. It's probably also the cause of why you don't see anyone actually being lit on fire, electrocuted to death instantly, or sliced to ribbons by wind blades.

In fact, this Ethereal Barrier in and of itself could also explain why characters tend to have unnatural durability to melee weapons all the same, but that's a stretch, and certain scenes tend to argue against this point.

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There's a relatively in-depth explanation of Archanean magic here, which gets referenced every now and then.

Basically, there are entities (Archanea refers to them as deities) for each element and magic is simply a means of borrowing their power through mental control (hence the need for training and, likely, the Magic stat). I suspect these "deities" are the same things as the "fairies" or "spirits" discussed in the manga and in Tellius.

The deities were probably dragons, given Gotoh's involvement and both Archanea and Jugdral referring to dragons as gods.

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If I recall, the notes linked identify the deities as nature spirits, as in animistic religions such as Shintoism, but they also note that Gotoh taught humanity how to work with these nature spirits because they couldn't use the advanced dragon magic.

So that explains Anima (and by extension, Light and Dark via Tellius), but I remember The Sacred Stones going into the differences between Light and Dark magics; basically Light magic is derived from faith, while Dark magic is derived from knowledge. From this, I've always gathered that, compared to Anima being from pacts with powers of nature, Light magic draws from a higher power, that of mighty gods above and the like, and the strength of the spell is drawn from the faith of the caster. Dark magic, meanwhile, is more academic and draws from forces and laws that govern the universe, but the costs (such as losing yourself and going crazy) are due to the human mind struggling to understand those laws.

This also works into the GBA magic triangle: Nature spirits have "home field advantage" against greater sky gods, said sky gods can bend and "bring order" to the ancient forces and laws that make up Dark magic, while nature spirits have to yield to those same laws.

But enough about me rambling about made up stuff.

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This is truly mind-boggling stuffs, a shame the FE games don't elaborate more on this.

As for Magic and Resistance, Magic is more accurately a representation of one's own "conductance" to Mana. Personally I believe that Tomes have their inherent power (Might) and any extra is done by channeling extra power via external Mana. This also makes sense considering almost all magic criticals involve some kind of rune or extra glow, but they don't particularly do this in the Akaneia games, where the power comes from a god, not from the world around the caster.

Resistance, on the other hand is more like a magical barrier. A passive one. Like "Magical Conductance", it's not a physical trait, but an Ethereal one. It's tied to the soul, not the body. It's probably also the cause of why you don't see anyone actually being lit on fire, electrocuted to death instantly, or sliced to ribbons by wind blades.

In fact, this Ethereal Barrier in and of itself could also explain why characters tend to have unnatural durability to melee weapons all the same, but that's a stretch, and certain scenes tend to argue against this point.

Now something bothered me here. If we say that Magic and Resistance operates on a level of their own, an ethereal one, does that mean that every being is tuned to this level of existence which is only recognizable when being hit by magic? If so, then "Magic" is wholly separate from the physical world. It certainly explains why people aren't instantly sliced, burned or electrocuted, but then the same magic would be useless in other utilities, say, lighting a fire in a fireplace or buffeting arrows, for and against. Knights and generals are notorious for having wretched resistance, but I assumed that because encasing yourself in an all-covering metal plating amplifies the effect of heat and electricity (I have no explanation for wind magic though). Other magic classes with armors could have had the armor worked on with alchemy, explaining their heightened resistance (which the knights' armor is omitted with because of economic reasons perhaps). I believe I have read (in supports and such) where magic is used for mundane utility. If we keep to your ethereal concept, should that mean that every physical object has their own level of "Resistance"?

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"Magic" and "Resistance" are tied to the Soul, the Aura, one's Quintessence.

Mundane objects aren't affected, only those with life energy within them. Using magic for practical purposes just involves manipulating Mana to do something else, which involves a conduit different from those used in combat arts.

While I personally don't normally say that plantlife has any sort of Aura, Fire Emblem's world might be different? Because while a snag won't have any resistance, it won't be burned to nothing by an attack. Although, this is probably just because when attacking a snag you only want to knock it over, so you're likely focusing your attack near the bottom instead of trying to incinerate it. Although that doesn't explain how the hell Dark magic does anything to it...

Interesting food for thought.

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"Magic" and "Resistance" are tied to the Soul, the Aura, one's Quintessence.

Mundane objects aren't affected, only those with life energy within them. Using magic for practical purposes just involves manipulating Mana to do something else, which involves a conduit different from those used in combat arts.

While I personally don't normally say that plantlife has any sort of Aura, Fire Emblem's world might be different? Because while a snag won't have any resistance, it won't be burned to nothing by an attack. Although, this is probably just because when attacking a snag you only want to knock it over, so you're likely focusing your attack near the bottom instead of trying to incinerate it. Although that doesn't explain how the hell Dark magic does anything to it...

Interesting food for thought.

So how do you have a theory of why knights and the like have low resistance? From what I recall, a class with heavier armor tend to have low resistance and this is somewhat reflected in class changing, whereupon a character who dons heavy armor takes a heavy penalty in resistance.

About dark magic, if it directly attacks the soul, how would one target an opponent? And subsequently miss? Like, "I wanna absorb his life force" but still there is the chance of hit-or-miss, as with all attacks.

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In regards to Knights and similar people, it's because their armor is, well, inanimate. It's affected by magic normally, meaning it'll conduct heat, electricity, etc. Unless that armor is enchanted or the person wearing it is extraordinarily resilient then they're gonna have a hard time, and even then it's still gonna damage their magical potencies.

In terms of dark magic missing, well, dark magic is kind of infamously slow. It does also have some "physical" manifestation, like all magic, because manipulating magic will always cause a reaction in mana, even if it doesn't involve it.

Mana is altered by Aura, Aura supported by Mana, and emotion reflected in Aura.

This alone is also why mages must be calm when using magic, especially Dark magic. Powerful emotion will cause problems when casting, by distorting the very mana that is needed to be manipulated, or in the case of dark magic, causing the soul, the energy you're harnessing, to be unstable.

But back on topic, the usual giveaway are the runes, which even Nosferatu, arguably the fastest dark magic, has. Even flux has one, the one that appears beneath someone. So dodging it isn't out of the question, you just need to react to it properly and get out of the area of effect that the runes apply, late enough that they won't lock back onto you again, but not so late you uh, get hit. (Or you can spot-dodge, in the case of GBAFE characters, lol)

Edited by Ritisa

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In regards to Knights and similar people, it's because their armor is, well, inanimate. It's affected by magic normally, meaning it'll conduct heat, electricity, etc. Unless that armor is enchanted or the person wearing it is extraordinarily resilient then they're gonna have a hard time, and even then it's still gonna damage their magical potencies.

Now just to summarize, so that I have understood correctly: Each person has an innate resistance that prevents them from being instantly killed by magic attacks. So in this case, a flaming wooden ball would do more damage than a fireball conjured from magic, since it bypasses the resistance ability. Inanimate object are however, still affected by magic, and armors and such is a perfect conductor to thunder and fire and such.

Now here is a line of thought: Say we put a guy, born with high resistance, in a suit of armor. Chuck a thunder ball at him. If he did not have the armor on, the ball would hardly graze him but when he has it on, it instantly fries him. If the ionized particles in the thunder tomes were "magic", all the way throughout traveling from the air, via the metal links in the air and then to the skin of the guy, he would have likely survived. But somewhere along the way, it stops being "magic", and reacts to the guy normally, hence his death. So where do you suppose the line is drawn? Or do you have another theory? It doesn't even need to be a suit of armor, normal clothing would probably also negate the "magic" effect (huh, maybe that's why dark mages fight half-naked).

It also causes an interesting case with pegasi and wyverns. All flying units are notoriously vulnerable against wind magic and arrows. The latter can easily be explained with the larger target the mounts provide with their wingspan, and puncturing the wing would cause the mount to fall. Such should be the case with the razor sharp blades of wind magic as well. However, from dialogue, we know that pegasi has a high amount of innate resistance (and somewhat reflected ingame as well). So now we get another case of "magic or not when hit". The innate resistance of the pegasus should negate the wind magic attack, but they are shredded all the same.

In terms of dark magic missing, well, dark magic is kind of infamously slow. It does also have some "physical" manifestation, like all magic, because manipulating magic will always cause a reaction in mana, even if it doesn't involve it.

Mana is altered by Aura, Aura supported by Mana, and emotion reflected in Aura.

This alone is also why mages must be calm when using magic, especially Dark magic. Powerful emotion will cause problems when casting, by distorting the very mana that is needed to be manipulated, or in the case of dark magic, causing the soul, the energy you're harnessing, to be unstable.

But back on topic, the usual giveaway are the runes, which even Nosferatu, arguably the fastest dark magic, has. Even flux has one, the one that appears beneath someone. So dodging it isn't out of the question, you just need to react to it properly and get out of the area of effect that the runes apply, late enough that they won't lock back onto you again, but not so late you uh, get hit. (Or you can spot-dodge, in the case of GBAFE characters, lol)

Well, I have no arguments about this. As opposed to physical training that warriors practice, mages have to indulge in alot of mental training (perhaps explaining their squishiness). I do wonder if meditation and such are part of their training regiment. The runes themselves deserve their own topic, since I can only think about how impractical it is when a big round circle appears, indicating the direction of the spell. I would really like to discuss their role in military engagement but that is a topic for another day.

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