Coded azure.

Sunday 18 January 2004

Screenshot DAoC

Pic of the day: A little known fact is that my Lightwielder stories were partly influenced by playing Paladins in Dark Age of Camelot. Although I suspect it may be more like two expressions of a common theme.

Fiction about truth

I am still nibbling on the Recluce books by L. E. Modesitt Jr., more specifically Magic of Recluce. I like the magic system, and the stories are nicely paced, the people almost believable despite the fantasy setting. But I have mentioned a couple times before that there are similarities between his magic system and my World of Light and Darkness. So I have given a little thought to the differences.

I would not presume to start on a new fiction while I am still midway through DarkEyes. But I have written on a short pre-game fragment about Glorrus Lightwielder, a RP character of mine on the Acid Reflux forum. I won't post the actual fragment here, but it takes the form of a conversation between Glorrus as a teen Lightseeker (before formally accepted as a novice) and his teacher The Widow. It starts by outlining the nature of Light and Darkness, and proceeds to the conditions of being a Lightwielder and the practices needed to get there. I thought I should summarize some of it here. Unlike in the fragment, I will highlight comparison to other magic systems.


Unlike most fantasy settings, there are no "mageborn" regarding Light and Darkness. Everyone is on an equal footing. Intelligence is only moderately helpful ... if you are too retarded you may have problems, but above average intelligence makes little or no difference, at least not in Lightwielding. Anyone can become a Lightwielder or a Darkwielder if they have access to the corresponding book. (You could also learn entirely from oral tradition, but basic literacy is common even after the Cataclysm, and anyway at least a Lightwielder would certainly teach reading to his or her disciples if they couldn't read already. Spreading knowledge is part of their calling.)

Just because there is no "talent" for wielding Light or Darkness doesn't mean you can just open the book and cast spells. Both of the two require a dedicated lifestyle. In the case of Light, the defining trait is honesty. (In the Ordermasters of Recluce, lies are also physically painful, but not to the same extreme extent. Their defining trait is order ... they have to live ordered lives, strive for perfection and avoid all acts of chaos no matter how good its intentions.)

Unlike Christianity or for that matter other world religions, the Light does not have a broad moral agenda. As a Lightwielder you could get drunk and fornicate to your heart's content, theoretically even kill innocent bystanders (though not directly through magic ... there is no destructive Lightpower). The hook is, you would have to do so without lying. You would not even be able to try to hide it after the fact. Doing so would cause physical pain, even severe burns and death. This phenomenon, known as Lightburn, totally controls the life of a Lightwielder. It begins as a small twinge when you first start to approach the power, and increases as you immerse yourself in the Light. When you are just a novice, barely able to do some small things with the Light, you will get Lightburn from outright lies. But eventually even a shrug could cause you to scream in pain. Any attempt to gloss over the truth, in any way, would burn you like searing fire.

The life of a novice consists mostly of confession. Well, you do your daily work in the world, but your progress in the Light depends on confession. It is virtually unthinkable that you arrive as a novice without having something to hide. Unlike a Catholic confession, it need not be some sin. Although it is probably somewhat dubious, or you would not have hid it in the first place. But while Christianity encourages us to hide whatever good we might do, Lightwielding requires that everything is in the open, good or bad. As soon as you remember something that is not known about yourself, you have to tell someone. Not necessarily your teacher. It does not matter as long as you tell it to someone who believes you. But if you want to hide something from some particular person, you will still have to confess it to that person, or at least make sure it is public knowledge so they can learn it if they want to. (You don't need to tell your entire life to every person you meet, after all!)

Until you have revealed all of your secrets, as far as you can remember, you cannot even begin to touch the Light. It's not like you can keep half of your secrets and become a moderately powerful Lightwielder. No. It is just the beginning. That's why a novice better start confessing right away.

It is just astonishing how hard it is to do various other dubious things without lying before, during or after. So in practice, a Lightwielder will live a pretty saintly life. This does not exactly encourage large crowds of people to seek the Way of Light. And since it's open to anyone, there is no sense of being born with the gift for a purpose. There is no responsibility. Someone else can do it.


The Way of Darkness is unpalatable in its own ways. It is founded on illusion. Yes, you have the power to fool all the people all the time, except those who are steeped in the Light. But your gains are also somewhat illusionary. You may look good and feel good, but your body's life energy is slowly being fed to the Darkness. Just as the Lightwielders grow healthy as a side effect, so the Darkwielders grow sickly. They don't look it or feel it, but when the end comes, it comes fast and early. This doesn't discourage everyone, but on the other hand Darkwielders are not exactly known to share the love. While any Lightwielder will be happy to help you make your own copy of the Book of Light, Darkwielders tend toward envy and jealousy and you are likely to find their copy of the book only after they are dead.

The net effect is that, just like in most other magic fantasy settings, the number of practicing mages is pretty small at any one time.

I wasn't aware until this week that Modesitt's Chaos wizards also tend to burn out early, while I learned last week that Order masters can live for at least a couple centuries. That makes my setting uncomfortably similar to his, and he was first. I hate it when that happens. But let's face it, the chance of me getting any Light and Darkness stories published, ever, was infinitesimal even without this. As long as I enjoy my own stories, I guess I should be content. And anyway, I have a backlog of other fiction waiting, just in case I ever get current with my journal...

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Shrouded Isles, first impression
Two years ago: PvP in Valhalla
Three years ago: Between hubris and despair
Four years ago: Dinosaurs vs customers
Five years ago: Work peeve

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