A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #10: The Branches

Essentia in its natural form is highly mutable.  It attunes to anything it passes through, and this attunement can be quite fast – a matter of seconds, in the case of living creatures.  This means that drucrafters don’t generally need to worry about maintaining a reserve of personal essentia;  it’s not a battery that needs to be charged.  As long as they’re in a sufficiently essentia-rich environment, they can replenish their personal essentia in five seconds flat.  Of course, they can also expend all that personal essentia in five seconds flat, but since there’s usually plenty more where that came from, this isn’t generally a problem.

But while essentia is mutable, it’s not ever-changing.  When essentia currents converge to form a Well, the essentia takes on a certain quality and stays that way.  These qualities tend to be quite stable, and Wells will typically produce essentia of almost exactly the same type for year after year, decade after decade.  It’s so consistent that someone who’s really familiar with a particular Well can reliably pick out a sigl that was shaped from it, even one created fifty or a hundred years ago.

From the very beginning, drucrafters noticed that the essentia from Wells seemed to divide into six distinct categories.  These have come to be known as the six branches of drucraft.  A brief overview included below:  for more detail, turn to the respective chapter for that branch.

Light

Light drucraft grants control over the electromagnetic spectrum;  everything from visible light to infrared, ultraviolet, radio, microwaves, X-rays, and gamma rays, though for practical reasons sigls from this branch tend to focus on visible light.  Light effects can create electromagnetic radiation out of essentia (projection), turn that radiation back into essentia again (negation), or bend and redirect existing electromagnetic forces (manipulation).  Relatively weak in terms of the raw energy it can deliver, but the usefulness of its concealment and vision effects means that it sees heavy use in the military and security sphere.

Matter

Matter drucraft can alter nonliving matter by changing its physical properties (mass, hardness, brittleness, strength, reactivity, conductivity, etc).  The change is only temporary and only one property may be changed at a time, but this is still extremely useful for various industrial processes, enough so that the vast majority of global Matter drucraft production is funnelled into manufacturing.  Mass-reduction sigls are also quite popular for personal use.

Motion

Motion drucraft grants control over kinetic energy in all its forms;  heat, cold, momentum, sound, etc.  The most common Motion effects are ones that directly create kinetic energy out of essentia, allowing a drucrafter to generate sources of heat, hurl themselves or an object through the air, or deliver a kinetic strike to a target.  However, as with Light drucraft, this can also be used in reverse;  turning kinetic energy into essentia allows a drucrafter to do such things as slow a fall, create zones of freezing cold, or stop a projectile in mid-air.  Generally considered to be the most directly useful of the branches for offence and defence.

Life

Life drucraft affects living creatures, generally by stimulating, enhancing, or suppressing specific systems within an organism.  Its sigls can accelerate a particular bodily system while also fuelling it with energy, allowing it to function at superhuman levels.  Enhanced strength, speed, dexterity, senses, and sensations are all possible.  By far the most popular use for Life drucraft, however, and the one for which it is most famous, is medicine.  Life drucraft, when combined with modern medical care, can heal or cure most conditions – broadly speaking, anything that a body can heal itself from, a medical drucrafter can fix faster and better.  The vast majority of Life sigl production goes into the medical industry, and sigl-wielding doctors are always in high demand.  There are never enough, though.  No matter how many medical professionals are trained and equipped with sigls, there’s always a demand for more.

Dimension

Dimension drucraft affects space and time.  Its basic effects allow a user to accelerate or decelerate the flow of time in a small area, or stretch or compress space with a similarly small range.  Generally considered the most difficult of the branches to shape and channel.  More so than any of the others, Dimension is considered the ‘generalist’ branch – it doesn’t excel at any one particular thing, but it’s almost impossible to find a task that it can’t help with somehow.  After all, it’s hard to imagine any problem that can’t be affected by space and time.  Due to this, as well as the inherent difficulty of the branch, Dimension experts tend to be specialists.  Probably the least commonly encountered branch in the West, due to the global pattern of Dimension Well distribution.

Primal

Primal drucraft can be thought of as ‘meta-drucraft’ – its effects deal directly with essentia itself.  This makes it useful primarily as a supplement or support.  Primal effects can be used to produce or access more essentia than one would be able to use normally, store personal essentia for later use, infuse essentia into things or people, or extract it in turn.  Also used in the creation of sigls – limiters require Primal drucraft to make, although not to use.  Primal is also the ‘anti-magic’ branch, with several effects that can disrupt or weaken other spells.  However, if you don’t have some other sigl effect that you want to either boost or hinder, Primal drucraft is of limited use.

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13 Responses to A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #10: The Branches

  1. Nick says:

    Thank you very much for this. It gives much food for thought! I am assuming that, as yet, Stephan has yet to encounter a Dimension well as, by the way you have worded it, they are uncommon in the West but maybe more so in the East?

  2. Kevin says:

    Well this was informative as always! I liked that Light also had some applications for the other waves of the spectrum, and I wonder if it does not have some power/energy source application as it was mentioned in the Exchange?

    Speaking of the spectrum I just realized that the six branches kinda of roughly aligns with the visible light spectrum that way Stephen sees it was that intentional on your part? I guess Primal being clear grey is like an origin source since it is made of black and white.

  3. Jim Sackman says:

    My usual question about mass reduction as it relates to magic systems (or sci-fi). So, why is there not a thermo-nuclear explosion when the mass disappears? My take with shape shifting was that the new entity was essentially a construct controlled from a pocket dimension and that because of this there was no actual mass change. I am guessing in this case the cause of mass (which you can point to the Higgs field, but we have really little understanding) is weakened?

    • Benedict says:

      I’m not sure why there’d be a thermonuclear explosion when you reduce the mass of something? In any case, mass reduction sigls don’t make an object’s mass disappear; they just suppress it temporarily, causing it to behaviour as though its mass was lower.

  4. Jim Sackman says:

    E = mc2. If you remove mass it becomes energy. That is how nuclear weapons work. So, if you think about say removing mass in a sci-fi context (we can use Ant Man as an example). He removes over 150 pounds of mass when he shrinks to ride an ant. That would create the largest explosion ever on Earth. How a human brain works in such a mass reduced mode is beyond me. Reducing the space between atoms would theoretically be possible, but then Ant Man is not riding an ant as his mass has not changed.

    So, to “suppress mass temporarily” you have to think about the real world consequences of that and how it might work. Given that we have no quantum theory of gravity and a theoretical notion of how the Higgs field created mass originally, we can make something up. So, a reasonable theory in your magic model is whatever is actually causing mass (is it a quantum field or something else) gets weakened in a specific region. This (not possible in our world – we think) would allow apparent mass reduction.

    The reason I bring this up is that your magic systems (and other systems as well) try to maintain what would happen with the real world physics as part of their story. It is the one physical trait that we have (today) no control over at all and no theory on how to do so.

    • Benedict says:

      For E=mc2 to apply, the mass would have to be converted to energy (ie, made to explode). Matter drucraft can’t do that. All it can do is make something temporarily behave as though its mass is lower than it actually is. Still very useful, but nowhere near the massive energy generation that you’re describing.

  5. Jim Sackman says:

    So, again we need to describe the mechanism that lowers the mass. If the mass just “goes away”, then it will convert to energy. The only alternative is that we weaken the mechanism that creates mass. We don’t have a great handle on the actual mechanism that creates mass. You could, in universe, hypothesize a quantum field that particles interact with to have mass. And thus the mass lowering effect actually reduces the quantum field and does not impact the actual mass itself (whatever that is actually made of). You can see why this is a bigger problem in sci-fi than fantasy as you can create such a quantum field and have the sigils be able to impact it. I just like to see how authors think about this problem. It also is not a big deal in universes where the magic is not grounded at some point in physics.

    You can see why shapeshifting in a physics grounded universe would be such a hard problem. Imagine you were a native American shaman who became both a bear and a flying squirrel. When you become a flying squirrel (and they tend to way an ounce or two), you realistically have lost the mass of your brain. If the universe wants to have human level intellect in the new form, then there has to be a way of dealing with both the loss of mass and the loss of brainpower. That universe had a simple mechanism to add mass temporarily (and it dissipated slowly so no kaboom). So, my take was that the new forms were all created via this mechanism and the caster was actually stored in a pocket dimension with a magical link to the created creature. Your mass reduction sigil is a much simpler problem to solve.

    • Bill says:

      I think that the point of the book is that it is set in a Magic World not the current one. It is quite conceivable (for me anyway) that the excess energy is ‘stored’ in the Dimensional Essentia to be returned at a later time, or even used in a different way.
      As well as saying that mass=energy Einstein also treated time as just another dimension. String theory postulates that there may(must?) be many more dimensions than the conventional 4. Indeed the latest physics looks only slightly more believable than the IoM one…
      However this is fantasy not science fiction!

      • Bill says:

        Whoops! My comment above doesn’t make that much sense as I meant to say that any excess mass or energy could be conveniently stored in another dimension on a temporary basis…

  6. Andrew says:

    When Stephen gets his affinities tested, we’re not told his Primal affinity. Does its differences to the other branches mean people can’t have affinities associated with it? If so, how hard do people find it to create primal sigls relative to the other branches?

    • Benedict says:

      I haven’t worked out the exact details yet, but yes, I’m leaning towards Primal not having affinities in the same way – since its the closest to “pure”, undifferentiated essentia, it behaves differently to the others. And yes, that can make it harder to shape, since you can’t easily find shapers who’ll naturally be inclined towards it.

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