Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
Magic versus Nature
Magic is a well-known force in Taan, and has been throughout history. It is powerful, and can do almost anything: but it is best used by individuals, and is hard to repeat reliably or for practices and techniques to spread. It is also dangerous – even to skilled practitioners. Amongst races with less aptitude for magic, early experimentation often causes terrible injuries or death; self-taught mages usually bear the scars of their lessons. Amongst Elves, though, their own innate abilities and aptitudes make them far more able to use potent magic, and far less likely to be injured or killed in magical accidents; combined with their long lives, their eldest mages are powerful enemies to have. It is for this reason that the Elves, despite being few in number and with little manufacturing ability, managed to grind Uruk colonisation to a halt and force the negotiation of the Treaty of Grelda a thousand years ago – a few dozen skilled mages can cause all manner of harm to warships, even from great distance.
For these reasons, magic has tended to be the purview of a few powerful individuals, and unavailable to ‘the masses’. Technology, though far less versatile and much more difficult to create for the first time, is empowering to the masses and can be used by anyone, and its dangers are far more predictable; this is why the rise of technology has caused such transformative social upheaval, even though magic and technology often solve the same problems. Now that Uruk technology is more advanced, many Uruk believe the Elves have lost their advantage and cannot continue enforcing the Treaty of Grelda further.
It is known that magic and technology tend to ‘pull’ in opposite directions. Mages attempting to use magic have long observed that it becomes noticeably harder to work spells in the presence of powerful natural forces – huge storms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes – and it is widely accepted that this is because the laws of nature and the laws of magic are opposed. Magic operates by changing the rules briefly; nature, though, attempts to conserve its laws. The more energy there is flowing through a “natural” process, and the more complex the process, the harder it then is to alter those rules and make magic work – much the same way as it’s easier to build a dam in a dry riverbed than a river in flood. Complex, powerful machines, therefore, can make it harder to perform magic.
The reverse is also true – expose delicate, operating machinery to sources of powerful magic, and the subtle inconsistencies in the laws of nature around them can cause the machines to begin wearing down, breaking, or even abruptly jamming up or destroying themselves entirely if the imbalance is big enough. Such effects are generally subtle, but mages and technologists are often suspicious of one another, and eager to lay blame even for routine mistakes and problems. Others are curious if there are ways to use magic to create stable, localised “alternative” rules in the long term, to create hybrid devices that combine the best of both – but none have ever had success.