A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #11: The Five Limits

More than any other principle in drucraft, the Five Limits define how drucraft operates.  The Faraday Point, the Lorenz Ceiling, and the geographical distribution of Wells are all important, but on a larger scale, none are even remotely as significant as the Five.  The Five Limits define what drucraft cannot do.  Everything not covered by the Five Limits is at least theoretically within the bounds of drucraft.  It may be impossible in practice, due to requiring finer control over essentia than any human could ever achieve, a sigl more powerful than any Well on our planet could ever produce, a violation of the laws of physics, or all three at once – but there’s nothing about drucraft itself that inherently forbids it.

The Five Limits are usually summarised as follows:

  • Euler’s Limit:  Sigls can only be created from essentia.
  • Primal Limit:  You can’t use drucraft without a sigl.
  • Blood Limit:  You can’t use someone else’s sigl.
  • Limit of Creation:  You can’t change a sigl after it’s made.
  • Limit of Operation:  A sigl won’t work without a bearer.

It is very important to understand that although this summary works well as a teaching aid, it is also wrong.  Every single one of the Five Limits, as summarised above, has specific situations in which it is misleading if not outright false . . . accounting for all of the exceptions and edge cases, however, quickly turns each of the Limits from a single sentence into a long essay, so the summaries are still worth remembering.  Still, novice drucrafters should be warned that they’ll be laughed out of the room if they treat them as the whole truth.  Their goal of these summaries is to function as a stepping stone on the route to proper understanding.

History of the Five Limits

The Five Limits have been practically understood, at least in fragmentary form, ever since the beginning of drucraft.  Current opinions, however, are that drucrafters didn’t reach a good theoretical understanding of the Five Limits until the classical era – surviving documents indicate that the Limits were established and codified more or less independently in both the Greco-Roman world and in Imperial China.

The Five Limits as currently understood, however, were only fully formalised in the 1700s, by the combined work of a large number of independent researchers.  When Leonhard Euler wrote his treatise on the Five Limits in 1774, he was largely collating and organising work that had already been done.  Much has been written on the Five Limits since then, but all of it can be (more or less fairly) described as a series of footnotes to Euler.

Beyond the Five Limits

During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, research into the Five Limits mostly took the form of establishing and categorising them – finding out exactly where the boundaries were.  In the 20th century, however, there was an extended period of around forty to fifty years – historians argue over the dates, but the most cited timeframe is 1939 to 1982 – where drucraft researchers seriously attempted to push beyond these limits.  The goal was to find, not yet another workaround, but an genuine breakthrough that could radically expand what drucraft was capable of.

The effort produced a great many discoveries, and for this reason is often regarded as the golden age of drucraft research.  Threaded sigls, the one major workaround to Euler’s Limit, were invented during this time, and modern limiters owe almost all of their design to advances produced as a result of this work.  However, in its central goal, the effort was a failure.  Drucraft had advanced, but the Five Limits remained an apparently impenetrable barrier.

Gradually, research into the Five Limits began to tail off.  Companies founded with the intention of finding a breakthrough ran out of money and disappeared, and larger corporations redirected their R&D departments to other tasks.  The end of the Cold War brought a cutback in military budgets, and defence companies suddenly found their governments far less willing to fund ambitious drucraft research that had no clear goal.  With funding drying up, and no existential threats to act as a motivator, progress slowed to a halt.

In the modern age, things have now come full circle.  Much as in antiquity, the Five Limits are viewed as impassable boundaries.  Although research is still conducted into new types of sigls and new uses for essentia, the vast majority of modern drucraft R&D is relatively unambitious, focused on producing results that are commercially viable (which in practice mostly means creating sigls that appeal to industries, militaries, or rich consumers).  Still, the dream to find a way past the Five Limits has never quite gone away, and there are still people working away at the edges of drucraft society, hoping they’ll be the ones who’ll finally discover a way through . . .

This entry was posted in A Beginner's Guide to Drucraft. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #11: The Five Limits

  1. Bill says:

    Excellent intro to the five limits, and looking forward very much to the detail of each and even more so to the exceptions!
    I hope that things are going well on chapter 3 of the third book and that your work on this world-building isn’t impacting your progress.
    Also looking forward to hearing about sales progress of the series, which you though might be available in March?

  2. Benedict says:

    Yup, book 3’s going well. As for sales data, I should get my it by April.

  3. Andrew says:

    How are threaded sigls a workaround for Euler’s limit?
    Which of the limits are modern limiters a workaround for?

  4. Nick says:

    Thanks for the above and much cheaper than a consultation with Maria! I just wish that book #2 wasn’t so far off…

    • Celia says:

      Hopefully we’ll get a chapter or two before book 2’s release! 🙂 And then another AMA afterwards. I already started thinking of questions!

Comments are closed.