A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #16:  Limit of Operation

A sigl won’t work without a bearer. 

The least-studied of the Five Limits, the Limit of Operation is often treated as more of an afterthought.  For the most part this is a reflection of the attitudes of drucrafters – drucrafters are typically very interested in how they can increase their own power, and as such have tended to focus on those limitations that most restrict that, such as Euler’s Limit and the Blood Limit.  The question of whether a sigl would work without them doesn’t usually strike them as terribly important.

However, the Limit of Operation does have major implications for the use of drucraft in many fields, particularly industry, exploration, and warfare.  The 20th century saw increasing use of automation, with humans being replaced by computers, robotic systems, and drones.  The Limit of Operation meant that such automation could not be replicated in the field of drucraft.  And since many of the things that drucraft could do couldn’t (and still can’t) be done any other way, this meant that in an age of increasing mechanisation, the profession of drucraft remained solidly human.

Reasons for the Limit of Operation

The Limit of Operation is an interesting one in that it reveals an important facet of how drucraft works.  After all, if one thinks about it, there’s no obvious reason why a sigl should require a wielder.  A fire will burn so long as it has fuel, an electric circuit will continue to work as long as it has electricity, and even the most sophisticated of machines can continue to run so long as they don’t break down or run out of power.  They do need oversight and maintenance, but in principle, there’s no reason that it should have to be a human hand shovelling the coal into the furnace, or a human mind troubleshooting the operating system of the computer that runs the factory.  It’s just that it’s usually more practical to do it that way.

So why doesn’t the same apply to drucraft?  Why can’t you put a sigl somewhere, and have it draw essentia on its own?

The short answer is that while it may not seem that way to a novice drucrafter, it turns out that living, conscious creatures are actually quite good at channelling and directing essentia.  Learning to sense and channel is hard, but with enough time and effort, it’s possible.  Getting an inanimate object to do it in your place isn’t.  The exact ways in which essentia interacts with consciousness are complex and still not fully understood but the short version is:  if you want a sigl to work, you need a conscious mind using it.

Implications of the Limit of Operation

The Limit of Operation has far-reaching implications for the drucraft world.  Much of human technological progress over the past two or three centuries has focused on the construction of mechanisms capable of independent action.  Such machines need maintenance and direction, but a good deal of their utility stems from the fact that they can function on their own power.

The Limit of Operation means that this doesn’t work for drucraft.  You can’t have sigl-powered automatons, and you can’t have the sigl equivalents of things like streetlights or cars or washing machines, and you can’t have the drucraft versions of things like ammunition or bombs, where the energy is stored up when the thing is created, ready to be released at the pull of a trigger or touch of a button.  If you want something to be done with drucraft, you need an actual human being there to do it for you.

This effectively puts a minimum floor on the cost of doing anything with drucraft.  Drucrafters are rare, and drucrafters with a specific type of sigl are rarer still, meaning that if you want ready access to a particular drucraft effect, you need to keep a drucrafter with the appropriate sigl on hand.  And if they’re there, they can’t be somewhere else.  This, over time, has caused drucraft presence and expertise to concentrate in small enclaves, while everyone else can easily go their entire lives without seeing drucraft being used, or in fact even knowing it exists at all.


Much like the Primal Limit, there is one area where the Limit of Operation doesn’t fully apply, and it’s pretty much exactly the same one.  You can’t make a torchlight sigl that works without a bearer, and you can’t make a mass-reduction sigl that works without a bearer, but it is possible to make a Primal sigl that works without a bearer . . . with some caveats.

Calling these items “sigls” is somewhat misleading.  They don’t have a kernel, they don’t contain personal essentia, and they can’t generally do the same things.  They’re very bad at direct effects, and if you want to manipulate light, or matter, or anything else in the physical world, they’re pretty much useless.

What these items are good for is redirecting essentia.  They can shape essentia currents over an area, causing it to gather in a certain location, or run along certain channels.  This process is slow, and as such these items are generally incorporated into parts of a building or landscape.  When used in such a way, they are referred to as wards.

The main use for wards is to protect and enhance a Well.  A properly designed warding arrangement can allow a permanent Well to replenish itself slightly faster when depleted, and make it less likely that the Well will be weakened from prolonged or excessive use.  It’s even possible to use this method to strengthen a Well over time, growing it incrementally year by year.  Raising a Well’s class in this manner is a very long-term project, one measured in decades if not generations, but it’s one of the only known ways to actually increase the power of sigls you can produce.

Many Drucraft Houses in Britain have family legends claiming that their family Wells were grown in just such a way, and some have records of Well strength dating back to the Middle Ages.  While such stories are often exaggerated, it does seem likely that many of the most powerful Wells throughout the world owe their existence to exactly this kind of slow, patient work done over hundreds of years.

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5 Responses to A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #16:  Limit of Operation

  1. Bill says:

    Thanks for this, and another rather useful feature of Primal DruCraft.

    I’m wondering just what the Primal Sigls that can enhance wells look like. Big or small and do they resemble normal sigls in any way? Presumably they keep working for a long time so, once made, continue to enhance or refresh a well for years, decades perhaps even centuries?

  2. Nick says:

    Well manipulation seems to be the in sphere of Primal Drucraft so is the draining of a well ( such as planned by the Tier people) powered by some sort of Primal device/sigl or is it a purely mechanical (non-magical process)?

    • Celia says:

      Good point! I would love to know the mechanics behind how a well is drained.

    • Nick says:

      Thinking about pirating wells, there are probably two mechanisms involved, syphoning the essentia from the well and containing the extracted essentia in some sort of container. Both, I think, would need to be based on Primal Sigls but completely different methods of working?
      Plus you would also need to get the essentia out of the container in a useful way…

  3. Allan says:

    Hmm, the idea of “passive” essentia-redirecting sigls is interesting. Although we don’t know how strong the effect can be, we could imagine an area with enough sufficiently-powerful sigls that the essentia in the area is either low-density or otherwise difficult to interact with, which would make drucraft more difficult to perform (unlikely to be impossible, essentia seems to be like air in that it just kind of gets everywhere, quite ignoring personal essentia or sigls which serve as ‘essentia batteries’ that are deliberately unravelled to give access to the essentia within it, although that sounds massively inefficient and very niche in application).

    But the idea of wards to slowly increase the strength of Wells is interesting. I’d imagine most of the Well-nurturing is a combination of letting the essentia collect and strategically harvesting, along with things like shaping the physical area around it to encourage certain essentia flows. I can really see how a well-funded group could further an already-existing strategic advantage like that.

    Although that raises an interesting thought. However you do it, Well management is not a quick process – no matter how well-funded you are, you can’t make an A-class well from nothing in a few weeks or even a few years. Which means any gains are going to be slow, albeit compounding. Which I guess the raiders stand in contrast to – quick, destructive, flexible.

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