Brief theory of elemental magic and lore (essay)

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The following was posted 3 July 2009 by GM Naos. Despite it being written by a GameMaster, it was not vetted through the proper channels and is not considered Official Documentation.
Title: A Brief Theory of Elemental Magic and Lore: An Excerpt From Earth and Ember, Wind and Water: An Elemental Codex
Author: Lielruel Nellereune Illistim

Elemental magic is founded upon the principle of manipulating existing elemental energies that permeate the world. It is commonly accepted that there exist four prime elemental energies, which are typically identified as Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. As with all magic, mana is involved, and some elementalists even consider it to be a fifth element in its own right, sometimes referring to it as essence.

The passing of ages has seen the evolution of elemental magic from a broad study of the physical world to a well-organized and concentrated discipline. Modern practitioners often depart from the generalist role and dedicate their study in one or more of the prime elements. Of these numerous variations, four distinct schools of elemental magic have emerged, one for each of the prime elements. These schools specialize in the workings of a particular elemental energy and focus on unveiling the mysteries of how these energies influence and react with the world as a whole. Careful research and experimentation have revealed patterns time and again, observed and codified independently, and so built a firm foundation for rote elemental magic.

What has been discovered and recorded fills many libraries in the world, but these vast results have reinforced a number of core overarching concepts in elemental magic. To maintain the brevity of this essay, only the two major facets of elemental theory shall be considered herein.

The primary observation is that a spell or magical effect that is considered to be overtly elemental is most directly influenced by the understanding of that particular elemental energy. To be considered overtly elemental, a rote spell typically gathers, manifests or utilizes a particular type or combination of elemental energies in overwhelming proportion. For example, a spell that conjures a ball of fire would be considered to be overtly elemental and influenced by the element of Fire.

The second facet is that each type of elemental energy has been found to have secondary influences on particular classes of spell effects. In spells and effects where a single type of elemental energy is not overtly manifest, these secondary influences hold more sway, and deeper understanding in the relevant branches of elemental lore reveal how to more effectively manipulate the elemental energies for these effects.

The element of Air has been found to influence spells and magical effects which detect or discern things hidden or otherwise obscured, or which deal with temporal phenomena, including displacement in time and the relative perception and movement through time.

The element of Earth has been found to influence spells and magical effects which strengthen or otherwise reinforce the physical and magical attributes of things or those that protect or shield things.

The element of Fire has been found to influence spells and magical effects that destroy or degrade or otherwise deconstruct.

The element of Water has been found to influence spells and magical effects that create or otherwise manifest things from pure mana and those that alter or transmute objects and their magical or physical properties.

These influences, overt or secondary, form the theoretical foundation of elemental magic.

You would do well to remember them.