Magic in the World
The magic system in this world is primarily based upon alchemy, and the applications of transmutation. This is done for the most part through the use of transmutation circles or arrays to manipulate available matter in order to achieve the desired affect. In practice, the theory of transmutation is broken down into the study of various classifications of matter and energy such as heat(or fire), metal, earth, etc. Transmutation circles are drawn with a mix of symbols representing each class and a number of ‘operating’ runes which affect what the transmutation does.
Alchemical Magic (also referred to simply as “Alchemy”, as there is no perceived difference between the two), draws mixed reactions from people who see or know of it. Some admire it, and the role it plays in construction and invention. Without Alchemy, much of modern day technology would be beyond reach, and all the best metal craft comes from alchemical smiths.
Others, however, fear it for the power it represents, or else deem it unnatural. Many religions in particular condone Alchemy as a sin against the gods, and their own much lesser version of magic. Given this, many traveling alchemists keep their talents to themselves unless they know they are in a pro-alchemy area. Even then, who knows when an anti-alch zealot might be watching.
This is the practice of transmuting materials by drawing out diagrams known as “transmutation circles” (or arrays for advanced level alchemy) and then pouring energy into the circle or array to manipulate the matter within. It is generally a slow process and requires materials to be present in order to be manipulated. While not the fastest process, this advanced manipulation of matter allows for goods of astounding quality to be created.
High level alchemists can, with a little work and maybe some ingenuity, transmute materials into items far more advanced than the norm. Indeed, the origins of the black powder which is now prevalent amongst firearms are heavily routed in alchemical experimentation; this is why alchemically created black powder is so heavily sought after. However, transmutations are based on equivalent exchange, an eye for an eye, and any transmutation that requires a significant amount of energy will take it from the alchemist. As such, alchemy can be quite tiring overtime, especially with complicated transmutations.
Despite what the name would imply, ritual alchemy is not steeped in ceremony or any particularly intricate set of motions. The majority of the time spent transmuting is in drawing transmutation circles through which alchemy can be performed. Once a circle is available one must simply channel their focus on it, typically by touching their hands to it, and concentrating to perform a transmutation.
Transmutation circles are not always as simple as a circle on the ground. They can be in books, on clothing, on weapons or armour, or even tattooed on to a person’s body. Such predrawn circles have the advantage of allowing their spell to be cast instantly, and durable, long lasting items with powerful spells on them are coveted by almost all alchemists, and even some non-alchemists who would collect these powerful pieces or sell them for profit.
Most serious combat alchemists will have a sturdy transmutation circle on their body or equipment. These are typically handcrafted, but a few are passed down family lines. Such equipment is hard and quite time consuming to make. Since they can only perform a certain transmutation, alchemists with these permanent circles tend to develop signature moves based off of what their particular transmutation circle does.
Alchemists can have multiple transmutation circles prescribed into their gear if they are resourceful and skillful enough, but there are drawbacks. Mainly, walking around with heavily runed equipment is equivalent to carrying an armful of weapons and heavy armour; you’re quite clearly looking for trouble. This will make anyone nervous in your presence, more so because of the sheer destructive potential of weaponised alchemy.