Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #2-6: Pure Magic

Alchemy at its roots is about purity. The most famous example is the transmutation, or transforming, of base and low value metals into purer, more expensive metals such as silver, and the ultimate goal, gold. The most sought after example of alchemical excellence is the change from the corruptible and limited mortal life to the incorruptible form endowed by achieving immortality. Some Alchemists have even sought to purify the soul or essence or mind. It is in the lower hanging fruit of this school of magic and the spaces between these loftiest goals that most of the practitioners perform their magic. Their foci are chemical, metallurgical, pharmaceutical, horticultural, and enlightenment. Then there is the fusion of magic and the mundane.

Where the Conjurer might benefit from being their own kind of MacGyver, the Alchemist needs to an engineer or a doctor or a scientist. As such the Alchemist works mainly in physical components. Some of those components are of a pseudo-magical nature, others are entirely magical, but these substances and items are tools upon which the magic is focused, emanates, and acts upon other natural, non-magical materials and parts or devices. From an outside perspective, and from looking at the results the magic of, Alchemy does not seem all that magical. That can be changed the more fantastical the results are. Transmutation can be a less than full change too. Something wooden can be given characteristics of metal or stone. Even greater changes are possible.

Why limit Alchemy to changing lead into gold? The alteration of the physical properties of something can extend from density, hardness, and temperature characteristics, to swapping qualities like hot and cold, dry and wet, light and darkness, or solid, liquid, and gas. These more extreme examples can be a stepping-stone to the ultimate low-level alchemical feat, the fusion of magic and non-magic. The Alchemist can instil purity into impure things by imbuing them with magic and elevating them from their humble origins. So, where is the horror in this all? It starts in the mood of Alchemy as an almost fringe science and stems from otherworldliness. It can come from strange glowing trees or from simple incurable poisons or weird unstoppable plagues.

Mood: open.
Music: Time by Anthrax and Peace Sells by Megadeth.

Anthrax: Persistence of Time
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Megadeth: Peace Sells...But Whos Buying?

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