Encyclopaedia Arcana #18: Fire Magic (Part One)

Fire magic is probably the most iconic type of magic out there.  It’s common, widely known, and very very noticeable.

Playing with Fire

At a basic level, fire magic gives control over heat:  creating it, manipulating it, and moving it.  The most obvious use for this is of course burning things, and unsurprisingly that tends to be exactly how most fire mages get started.  A master taking on a fire mage as an apprentice is well advised to hold lessons in a non-flammable location.

As they gain experience, fire mages learn to use their magic in less destructive ways.  Their ability to control heat can be used as a protection as well as a weapon, moving and dissipating a fire away from things it might threaten.  In the same way that they can start fires, they can stop them.

Fire mages can also protect themselves against heat, and they’re very good at it.  Trying to burn a fire mage is a lot like trying to drown a fish – they can survive unbelievably high temperatures and there have been confirmed reports of fire mages walking through bonfires, furnaces, and even lava.


Like most elemental mages, fire mages can sense the presence of their chosen element.  A common way this manifests is in a kind of thermal vision, letting a fire mage ‘see’ heat in a similar way to a thermal imaging camera.  Warm objects stand out in their sight, while cool areas fade into the background.  The spell has a wide variety of uses – seeing in the dark, telling if someone has a fever, noticing malfunctioning electrical components, knowing when the roast is done, etc.

Their ability to see heat makes fire mages better at subtle operations than most people would think.  A fire mage can spot a warm-blooded creature in pitch darkness more easily than most people can see them in broad daylight.  Unless a person gives off no heat at all (difficult to do) it’s almost impossible for them to avoid a fire mage’s notice.

Combat Magic

Fire mages can do a lot of fancy stuff, but it’s their combat magic that they’re really famous for.  Fire magic has a horrendous amount of destructive power and can burn through buildings, armour, or flesh with equal ease.  Other types of magic can destroy as well (if not quite so effectively) but fire magic has a psychological impact that air or earth magic doesn’t.  Nearly all living creatures fear fire, and when used as a weapon fire kills in a particularly horrifying and agonising manner.  The sight of a human being turned into a screaming, flailing torch is quite terrifying, and one glimpse is usually enough to instil a deep fear of what a fire mage can do.

Fire mages, however, have one major Achilles heel when it comes to combat.  While their magic is great on the attack, it’s very bad at defence.  Fire shields can hold off spells and ward away people, but they’re terrible at stopping physical objects, particularly very fast ones (such as oh, say, bullets).  If a fire mage is about to be hit by a bullet travelling at 2,000 mph, then the only thing a fire shield is going to do is ensure that they’ll be hit by a red-hot bullet travelling at 2,000 mph, which really isn’t much of an improvement.  Some fire mages deal with this by developing spells or foci to include a kinetic element to their shields, but at a fundamental level fire magic just isn’t designed for defence.  Tactics with fire magic usually come down to some variant on ‘kill them first’.

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One Response to Encyclopaedia Arcana #18: Fire Magic (Part One)

  1. Margery Vasher says:

    I love this;it has helped me understand so much more. Thank you again. And keep up the great writing.