When most people think "magic", images of mana, powerful spells, and potions come to mind. The concept of metamagic is the larger scope that encompasses all of these.
Mana is the substance from which all magic is composed. Mana is a metaphysical particle, and can most properly be compared to photons, which are the particle components of light. In its raw form, mana is gaseous and invisible to the unaided eye. Some spells can be used to "see" the concentration of mana in a given area. This is akin to how infrared detects the presence of heat and the visual representation is known a "mana field". Through other magical processes, mana can be stored in a liquid form, at extremely low temperatures (close to absolute zero). In this state, mana appears to be an opaque purplish color. Mana can also be combined into a form similar to solid matter. This construction is known as ether.
Additionally, mana can bond itself to the structure of certain kinds of crystals during crystallization. Mana stored in this way is embedded directly within the molecular structure of the resulting gem, and can be stored for a long time without stagnating. The mana can then be absorbed by a mage or transferred to a magitech device at a later time. Crystals that have formed this way (either naturally or artificially) are called mana crystals. A major advantage to storing mana in crystal form is that it can be transferred easily to areas that are otherwise devoid of mana.
Mana is generally useless to mortals in its raw form. However, because of the prismatic effects of the Creation Gods' crystals, mana is most often found split into one of six threads.
When used, Mana becomes "inert" and is unusable until it recharges. Mana is recharged by being absorbed by and passing through living organic matter. For this reason, planets with healthy ecosystems generally have a higher concentration of usable mana than planets that do not. Conversely, pollution or nuclear fallout on a planet can reduce the concentration of usable mana available.
The Wheel of Mana
The Wheel of Mana is a six-spoked wheel. Each spoke represents one of the six threads of mana. The hollow at the center of the wheel represents Void.
Mana is most often seen as one of six possible "threads". Each thread has a certain elemental property. The following chart lists the type of mana and its corresponding color:
Void is not a property of mana as much as an anti-property. Void means that there is an absence of mana.
Threads of mana that are directly opposite on the Wheel are said to be opposing. If two opposing threads are put into the same weave, the intended weave's elemental effect is weakened. If equal quantities of opposing threads are included in a weave, their elemental properties are negated and the sum of the threads contribute only to the weave's overall intensity.
- Light opposes Shadow
- Water opposes Fire
- Air opposes Earth
Threads of mana that are adjacent on the Wheel are said to be lending. Lending threads increase the intensity of a thread's contribution to a weave. If used in sufficient quantity, lending threads can shift the elemental property of a weave.
- Fire and Earth lend to Shadow
- Water and Air lend to Light
- Air and Shadow lend to Fire
Threads of mana that are adjacent to opposing threads on the Wheel are said to be borrowing. Borrowing threads diminish the intensity of a thread's contribution to a weave. If used in sufficient quantity, borrowing threads can shift the elemental property of a weave.
What most people commonly call "spells" are actually weaves of mana threads. Ultimately, all spells are one of these weaves, regardless of the method used to transmit the effect. A properly trained mage can take raw threads of mana and combine them into magical effects. When a weave becomes so prevalent that nearly all mages use the same weave for a specific effect, it is often given a name and classified as an official spell.
Spellweaving is the most flexible form of magic, as a mage is able to combine threads in a manner of his choosing. As such, a spellweaver may be able to produce a spell when a spellcaster would not be able to, due to the limitations of mana available to them.
As a side note, the Standard word for "mage" translates literally to "mana singer". Similarly, the Standard word for "magic" translates literally as "mana song". This is related to the fact that Ardan mages -- who are particularly tuned to mana -- perceive ambient mana as music.
Spellcasting is the act of creating magic effects through the use of named weaves and is the most prevalent form of magic. Spells are memorized by the caster and later recalled through any number of mnemonic methods. The common methods are verbal recitation (also known as chanting or incantation) or gesturing (also known as prestidigitation), although some mages have good enough memories to be able to cast a spell entirely from rote or memory.
A verbal incantation can also be written onto an enchanted scroll. The act of writing a spell onto a scroll for future use is called "scribing" and should not be confused with "infusing", which is the act of storing a spell in a potion.
Infusing is the act of storing a spell in liquid form as a potion. These spells are usually specifically crafted or modified so that the target of the spell is the imbiber. As such, most potions are either healing spells or enchantments, although it is not uncommon for a curse to be disguised as a beneficial potion. Infusion is the most restrictive form of magic.
The property of Spirit applies every time a spell is used to restore or alter the subjects life energy. It is found in healing spells and spells to cure diseases. In sufficient quantities, this property can also be applied to reconnect a soul to a dead body. However, since the souls of the dead are the jurisdiction of Bahamut, resurrection spells and necromancy are banned by law on Arda and the other planets that recognize the Creation Gods.
Holy and Unholy
Holy and Unholy are listed as properties because they do not actually correlate with the common concept of "good versus evil". Specifically, unholy is a property that applies to the undead. Holy is the antithesis of unholy and is a common property for paladins to control.
The Null property can most simply be described as an anti-property. It can be applied to remove an element's influence on a spell or subject. This is distinct from the effect created by an opposing thread. For example, null-Fire can either eliminate Fire's effect in a spell or render a subject immune to Fire effects, but Water effects -- Fire's opposing thread -- would remain unaffected. Conversely, if Water were used to eliminate the effect of Fire, the subject would become more susceptible to other Water effects.
There is much debate among scholars whether psionics is truly magic, or just something similar. Simply defined, "psionics" is the imposing of one will upon another. Many effects of psionics are similar to magic, however others achieve the same effect through entirely different methods.