Encyclopaedia Arcana #28: Gate Spells

Gating is a particular magical technique that revolves around transporting objects or people from place to place.  It’s a general spell, used primarily by elemental mages, though a few other magic types (such as death and space) have access to it as well.

How It Works

Although there are several methods of opening a gate, by far the most common technique does so by creating a similarity between points in space.  The spell creates a two-dimensional portal linking the points, enabling the caster to step through them, as if space had been folded to bring the two locations adjacent to each other.  Upon completing the spell the gate collapses and vanishes.

The distance between the two points of a gate spell is irrelevant:  creating a gate is to travel ten feet is just as difficult as creating a gate to travel a thousand miles.  What is relevant is how familiar the caster is with the locations.  Typically, gating between locations requires that the caster know both places very well.  Getting familiar with a location isn’t difficult but does take time, and gate spells are also relatively slow to cast, taking upwards of a minute.

Taking Risks

It’s possible to accelerate the casting of gate spells, or to use them to travel to or from unfamiliar locations, and it’s even possible to cast them across dimensions or to go to locations the caster hasn’t seen at all.  However, doing so is dangerous.  Gating is one of the more difficult magical techniques, and using it under anything but ideal conditions is a lot like drunk driving:  you probably won’t kill yourself, but it’s still a really bad idea.  The more complicating factors involved in a gate spell then the higher the probability that the spell will go wrong, and gate spells that go wrong can be very, very messy.  There are a variety of possible consequences for a botched gate spell, but the most common is for the gate to suddenly and unexpectedly collapse.  If someone happens to be stepping through the gate at the time, they’re unlikely to survive the experience.

The limitations of gate spells make them effective in situations where the caster has a little breathing room, but unreliable in emergencies.  The problem with using a gate in an emergency is that they work best if you’re in a familiar area and have a minute or two to cast the spell.  If you’re in serious danger, however, odds are you’re not in a familiar area, and in that kind of situation a one minute casting time is probably fifty-nine seconds longer than you can afford.

Gates, Gates Everywhere

Despite its drawbacks gate magic is incredibly widespread.  Being able to transport yourself anywhere on the planet is a handy ability to have, and for many elemental apprentices learning to gate is similar to passing their driving test, opening up a whole new world of options.  There are a common set of safety procedures for gating which all elemental apprentices are taught, and as long as they’re followed gating is relatively safe.  Of course there’s always the one guy who doesn’t follow the safety procedures – gate accidents amongst mages are almost as common as transport accidents amongst normals, and happen for exactly the same reasons.

Given the popularity of gate magic it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a thriving industry in counter-gate magic.  Mages have (understandable) issues with unannounced visitors teleporting into their bedrooms at night, and it’s a rare mage who doesn’t take the effort to have his home and workplace warded against gates.  Gate wards can take various forms:  the more benign ones redirect gate spells to a designated arrival platform or simply block them, while nastier versions change the gate’s destination to somewhere hazardous or cause the gate to fail spectacularly as soon as something goes through it.  For these reasons it’s generally considered advisable to check an area for wards before attempting to gate into it, particularly if said area is used by other mages.

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